The emotions behind wildlife rescue and release at Sepilok (VIDEO)

‘A clean bill of health is required to enable these orangutans to be released back to a selected release site by the Sabah Wildlife Department,’ said wildlife veterinarian Laura Benedict. ― Pictures courtesy of Scubazoo
‘A clean bill of health is required to enable these orangutans to be released back to a selected release site by the Sabah Wildlife Department,’ said wildlife veterinarian Laura Benedict. ― Pictures courtesy of Scubazoo

KOTA KINABALU, Sept 21 ― In the final episode of the webseries Borneo Wildlife Warriors, the Sabah Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) talks about how the hard work that goes into the release rescued animals into the wild, and the rewarding experience it is.

Fresh from an eventful rescue of a mother and baby orangutan, WRU veterinarian Laura Benedict explains that the duo were brought back to the world renowned Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre where they underwent a quarantine period and issued a clean bill of health.

“Sepilok has been taking care of rescued orangutans since 1964; today, it is the WRU’s eastern base of operations.

“Sepilok acts as a halfway home for all the rescued orangutans, with the hope that most of them will eventually be released back to the wild. Of course in reality, not all of them can be released,” she said.

The decrease of their habitat and even worse, habitat fragmentation, orangutans, like other wildlife, are sometimes forced to travel out of the forest for food and can find themselves in the many plantations in Sabah’s vast interiors.

“Most will find their way back into the forest eventually. But we do observe orangutans who live in a plantation too, but of course this is not the best habitat for them, as they will be exposed to threats from irresponsible individuals but also diseases,” said WRU Operations Officer Benjamin Kotiu.

‘Sepilok acts as a half way home for all the rescued orangutans, with the hope most of them can be returned back home,’ said wildlife veterinarian Laura Benedict.
‘Sepilok acts as a half way home for all the rescued orangutans, with the hope most of them can be returned back home,’ said wildlife veterinarian Laura Benedict.

The WRU have conducted an extensive campaign to encourage landowners to contact them when orangutans and other wild animals are caught on their sites, in order to relocate them to safer territories.

It is always the WRU’s priority to return rescued animals to the wild, and this is the best part of any rescue.

Another vet, Pakeeyaraj Nagalingam is in charge of this particular release and after some deliberation about the process, the decision is made to release the baby first.

“By releasing the baby first, hopefully it will climb the tree, then the mother can rush up after him, suitably calm after escaping her captors that she will reunite with her young and they both will go off into the forest together”, he said.

Although the future looks tough for the orangutan, as they have been recently been upgraded to a critically endangered species, the WRU team remains as determined as ever.

“It’s not the end of our fight, its just means we need to work harder,” said Kotiu.

In the final episode of this series, its host Aaron “Bertie” Gekoski join the WRU in completing their mission to release mother and baby orangutan to the wild. Catch all episodes of the series on Scubazoo.tv, YouTube and Facebook.

The baby orangutan needs to undergo a health checkup before being released back into the wild.
The baby orangutan needs to undergo a health checkup before being released back into the wild.