It was a joyous occasion for Malaysia One Health University Network (MyOHUN) when a rescued baby orangutan is named Myohun at the Training on the Prevention of Wildlife Zoonoses and Tropical Ecosystem Health in Sandakan, Sabah. The training was organized by MyOHUN on 17-21 May 2017. Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary is the biggest and most well-known orangutan sanctuary in Malaysia with an area covering over 43 square kilometers. Seventy-five orangutans roam free within this forest reserve.
Myohun or “Mai” is a 2-year-old adorable orangutan baby boy, weighing 5.5 kilograms. He is quarantined for now at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre’s clinic for medical and physical treatment before the centre allows him to mingle with other orangutans. Mai has shown amazing recovery from when he was rescued and had begun to display affection towards the workers there.
Mai is an orphan, and sadly not the first orangutan found abandoned or isolated from his family. He ended up in Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre after he was found wandering in the palm oil farm at the age of two, a mere baby. When the rescue team arrived, Mai was hiding behind a palm tree, alone. Mai was very fearful of human and the rescue team led by Madam Sylvia Alsisto had to spend time calming him down before they can take him to the centre to have medical check-up and treatment.
Orangutan or ‘man of the forest’ is only found in parts of Borneo and of Sumatra. On both islands, their habitats are severely threatened by the increased of human-related activities such as logging, mining, forest fires, illegal pet trade and agriculture. As their habitat are destroyed and fragmented, and their numbers declined due to poaching, orangutans in Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) have been classified as ‘vulnerable’. Land conversions for development of various degrees have been the biggest reason for habitat loss for wild animals. This happened when the lands were converted for human activities such as housing development, roads, strip malls, industrial sites and recreation parks. Mai and his relatives probably have had their homes destroyed in one of these processes and therefore left him behind as his relatives migrated or died due to lack of food and shelter.
Mai is a sad story that is not unique and unfortunately has probably happened to many precious orangutans and wildlife. Many may not have been as fortunate as Mai to have been found and provided with a new home and shelter. Over the past 60 years, the population of orangutans has fallen by more than 50% and while at least 55% of its habitat has disappeared over the last 20 years. The existence of places such as Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and Semenggoh Wildlife Centre help facilitate and enhance conservation efforts. However, if we continue with the rapid conversion of our forest for development, much more is needed than a conservation centre to ensure we remain to possess this rich biodiversity.
If we are not careful, one day we will wake up and no more will there be ‘man of the forest’.
How we will miss that shaggy brown hair and round dewy eyes, and what a loss that would be.