What happened to the mothers of two orphaned Sepilok orangutans?

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Published 14 October 2020. The featured image above is not of either of the two orangutans mentioned below.

Nami and Zorro are two orphaned infant orangutans at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) in Sabah, Malaysia. The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), the Sabah state government wildlife agency, manages the SORC.

According to the British charity Orangutan Appeal UK website, Nami was “surrendered” to the department when she was 18 months old, while Zorro was found “all alone at the edge of [sic] plantation” when he was three.

On 30 September Friends of the Orangutans emailed the SWD to ask the department these questions about Nami and Zorro:

  • In which area in Sabah were these two infants found?
  • Were both infants found in an oil palm plantation?
  • Was there any investigation carried out by the department to determine how these infants ended up as orphans, and what happened to their mothers?
  • If there were investigations, what is the outcome of them?


The SWD has yet to respond. The department deserves praise for saving the two infants. However, it should be transparent and explain to the public if investigations were carried out to determine what likely happened to the mothers of the two infants. Orangutan mothers do not easily abandon offspring in their care and may even put their own life at risk to defend their young. Investigations should be started if they were previously not done.

Transparency from the SWD is also crucial as funds are publicly being raised for Nami and Zorro at the SORC, a centre owned by the Sabah state government.

Friends of the Orangutans have previously revealed questionable practices at the SORC – see our publications at the end of this article.

Based on information we received, over 150 orangutans were sent to the SORC between 1998 and 2008 (we welcome the SWD’s response if this figure is inaccurate). Were most of them infants? What happened to their mothers?

You can help raise awareness and ask the SWD to be transparent and inform the public if the department had carried out investigations to determine how Nami and Zorro ended up orphans. Here is what you can do:

  • Tweet to the authorities in Sabah. CLICK HERE to tweet now.
  • Write to Mr Augustine Tuuga, the Sabah Wildlife Department Director:


           Copy the two email addresses below into the CC list. Both are emails of the SWD:



Further reading about the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre:

When profits rule – Sepilok orangutan release disaster

Sepilok orangutan tourism – here’s what’s wrong

General public finally barred from involvement with orangutan rehab at Sepilok

No transparency from Sabah wildlife authorities on welfare concerns of 6 Sepilok orangutans

Perilous orangutan tourism resumes at Sepilok amid COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19: Time for change at Sepilok Orangutan Rehab Centre

SWD’s dubious plan to release two orphaned Sepilok orangutans