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  A Cry in the Wilderness:
Surviving The Human Experience
  Written by Tan Su Lim, known throughout Borneo as "Uncle Tan"  

For several seasons I have lived in the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan. As an Orang Utan or ‘Man of the Jungle’, my experience with man has been mixed, while my stay at the Centre has helped to ensure my survival.

They call me Hamid at the centre, noting my often sad countenance. "Why do baby Orang Utans never smile?" the Sepilok visitors ask. Perhaps it is because we have so little to smile about.

My mother was murdered by trigger-happy labourers. They hunted her for fun, and then left her to rot away at the edge of their palm oil plantation after an exhausting chase. My father proved a much easier target for experienced hunters and was shot in a protected area beyond the plantation.

I was born in a time of great drought in Sabah. Unlike many other animals in the wild, Orang Utans do not have large families and even under favourable conditions a female may give birth only once in two to three years, with perhaps five births in her entire lifetime. Living deep in the rainforest, my family thought we were protected but we were proven wrong and we have suffered much in the hands of man.

Without a mother or father, another female adopted me. But food supplies were limited in an area ravaged by the heat of drought, and by occasional fires started by careless cigarette smokers. One day, while foraging for food, I was captured and stuffed into a sack and locked in a chicken coop. I was fed a diet of rice mixed with water, and poked and prodded by curious onlookers. I nearly died from the torment of captivity and inappropriate feeding times.
Eventually I was found and after much negotiation, I was rescued from my imprisonment and brought to Sepilok.

I am not alone in my experience, for each and every baby Orang Utan at Sepilok who was rescued, was also orphaned. For each baby in captivity, his mother was killed so that he could be captured.

Here at Sepilok, we are well taken care of, but such sad stories at the heart of our young lives. We’re being trained to be able to survive once again in our own natural environment. It is a slow process of reacquaintance and rehabilitation, which can take many years of constant and consistent care.

One day, I will learn to survive on my own, and then all those connected with the protection of the Orang Utans will tell the story of success that they can finally be proud of.

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