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
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. Were 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.