What’s wrong with visiting orangutan [and other great ape] rehabilitation centres? Orangutans undergoing rehab should not/must not be exposed to the public for two reasons:
1. Risk of disease transmission – orangutans who contract diseases such as hepatitis or tuberculosis [from humans] may not be releasable into the wild and doomed to a lifetime of captivity. Humans can also get infected by orangutans as we share 97% of their DNA.
2. Habituation to humans – ethical and responsible orangutan rehab centres such as International Animal Rescue’s orangutan rehabilitation centre in Ketapang, Indonesia, strictly control the presence of humans in their centres. Habituated orangutans may fail rehabilitation and never make it back into the wild.
Please stay away from rehab centres such as the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre [SORC] and Bukit Merah Orang Utan Island Foundation. The latter isn’t a rehab centre at all in the first place while the management of Sepilok is aware that tourism must not be allowed in great ape rehabilitation centres. Not only that, by allowing tourism Sepilok is openly breaking “Best practice guidelines for great ape tourism” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature [IUCN]. If you want to see orangutans in Malaysia, see them in the wild, like at Kinabatangan in Sabah, Malaysia.
Please also read Orangutan Project’s excellent article on human-orangutan contact and its consequences, click here to read.
Three photos in this post of visitors to Sepilok in contact with orangutans.