Before we left the city comforts of Kuching, Malaysia for the jungle, we visited a couple of nearby wildlife centers.
We were so excited to see our very first wild orangutan!
All of the orangutans at the wildlife center are wild and free to come and go as they please, but there are feeding platforms where the orangutans sometimes show up, depending on food availability in the surrounding jungle.
We were greeted with this sign, which was a bit quite disappointing. But...
...they were wrong! When the fruit was put out on the stands, several apes came for lunch...
...including this big old male! When Big Daddy arrived, the younger orangs scattered...he's the BOSSMAN around these parts!
He ate his fill and slowly climbed back into the rainforest and disappeared.
What a handsome fella (if you're a female orangutan, that is...)! Orangutan, in the tribal language, means "man of the forest." And those big dark pouches on the side of a male's face are called flanges. Big flanges=handsome orangutan.
Some of the men in our travel group (not naming any names here...) also claimed they had big flanges too...human females are not so easily impressed.
Orangutans are in the family of great apes, which includes gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans.
Trivia question: How can you tell an ape from a monkey?
Answer: Monkeys have tails, apes do not. Now you know!
Orangutans live to be around 40 years old, and don't start producing offspring until they are in their teens. Even then, they only have a baby every 6 or 7 years, making the fact that they are an endangered species even more serious as it takes a long time for numbers to rebound.
These primates live alone, except for the females with her babies or toddlers. Orangutans don't hang out in groups like monkeys do...they are loners.
They eat coconuts and other fruits (like this durian fruit) that grow wild in the rainforest.
Rambutan fruits are another favorite. We ate some too while we were in Borneo...underneath that crazy skin is some sweet delicious fruit!
Orangutans are incredibly strong, flexible, and acrobatic!
You'll see lots more orangutan photos from our trip, but these were special...our first taste of the animals we'd traveled halfway around the world to see and photograph.
One other animal we wanted to see was the sun bear. They are critically endangered and live very deep in the jungle and would be so hard to spot in the thick foliage, so the chances of seeing them in the wild are very slim. We were not lucky enough to see them in the wild, but we did visit a rescue center where sun bears who have been rescued from the illegal pet trade are cared for and protected from poaching.
The sun bear is the smallest bear on the planet and lives only in this part of the world. They have that distinctive yellow patch under their necks (which legend says represents the rising sun, hence its name) and are about the size of a large dog. Sun bears are illegally hunted for their prized liver which was believed by the native peoples to have amazing medicinal qualities. Adults were killed for their livers and the orphaned cubs would be sold into the illegal pet trade.
Trivia question #2: Name the bears in the photo above.
The 3 big ones are easy: grizzly, black bear, and polar bear. The ones in front are trickier: spectacled bear, sloth bear, sun bear, panda bear (I'm sure you knew that one!) and the Asian black bear.
Sun bears have incredibly long tongues, which they use to stick in beehive holes in trees to eat the bees and honey. They eat all kinds of bugs and insects as well as fruit and small animals...pretty much whatever they can find.
This man, Dr. Wong, set up this conservatory 15 years ago after seeing sun bears kept in captivity in dreadful conditions and trying to save them from extinction. He is Malaysian but went to school in Michigan and is so very passionate about his work here. Each one of these bears he has rescued has its own special story and he is very fond of them, like their human daddy bear.
It's sad to think these amazing animals may someday not exist. I always hope that there are lots more of them living deep in the remote jungles that humans don't know about.
God sure got creative when He made animals!
A couple of amazing creatures found only in this part of the world...orangutans and sun bears.