, Freedom


Words can’t sum up what an amazing experience it was to volunteer at Sepilok Orangutan Centre for 8 weeks with these fabulous apes. Whenever I do a wildlife volunteering experience I always research it very carefully to try to ensure it’s an ethical one, and I’ve occasionally been disappointed to discover that it’s not quite as I hoped. Sepilok however always has the OUs best interests at heart, with 2 resident vets, plenty of staff, and very strict rules.My only disappointment is that I didn’t get to meet Peanut, who is my adopted orangutan – he disappeared from the outdoor nursery 4 months ago and we can only hope that he is living a lovely life in a nice forest somewhere. The Orangutans have stolen my heart and it’s devastating to think that they may eventually be wiped out by us humans and our demand for palm oil in our food and beauty products.   , Freedom

The majority of the following photos are of the orangutans who are living freely in the forests of Sepilok, and who choose to make life easier for themselves if they want to come for a snack at feeding time, or perhaps they know that they are safe here and will never be harmed. Most of them have also grown up here, having been rescued as orphans and gone through the rehabilitation programme, so perhaps they want to stay close or come back to visit to the humans who have helped them.  Whatever their reasons, I’m certainly glad they hang around as it was always thrilling to go in to the public areas of the centre when I had time off, and see them swinging through the branches or walking along the handrails of the boardwalks.

, Freedom

This little baby below is called Luna May.  Her mother was released here and she has been born in the wild.  Let’s hope that she never needs to be rescued and lives her whole life happily in freedom.

, FreedomThe two orangutans hanging and standing are still in the programme, and the two on the ground being indiscreet have been released. I just love the scene and expression –  Captions please!

, Freedom

Below you can clearly see Wulan’s tatoo. All OUs are tatooed before they move up from the indoor to the outdoor nursery, so that if they wander far away from Sepilok and run into trouble they can easily be identified.

, Freedom The agility, strength, and flexibility OUs have is mind boggling ., Freedom A rare sighting of an orangutan in its nest.  They normally build them very high up in the trees, but we had a midday thunderstorm, and this was just above the boardwalk before a downpour ensued. Unlike birds, they don’t sleep in the same nest more than once, and it was fascinating to watch one being built, even if all we could see from below was small branches being bent over and pulled in., Freedom

You wouldn’t think that a simple strap hanging from a rope could be so comfortable, but they love it. Wulan is also sitting comfortably on a small post enjoying her papaya, with a stick of sugar cane held tightly in her foot to ensure that it’s not stolen.

, Freedom I try to zoom in on the details too, and liked the result of these two., Freedom

, Freedom , Freedom“I want those so I’ll take them”….., Freedom , Freedom , Freedom , FreedomWhether there was just one or a few on the feeding platform, they nearly always sat with their backs to the tourists.  Even the macaque didn’t want to be watched whilst it was eating., FreedomI like both these moments.  The eye contact on the left, and the total relaxed attitude of the ranger that this huge and strong ape was coming in right above his head 🙂  , Freedom , Freedom

I’m not sure why, but this is one of my favourites., Freedom

Playing with desaturating the colour until they are nearly B&W.

, FreedomOooooh….., Freedom

Chin up a bit, eye contact, aaaaand work it baby!  How’s this for a great pose?……., Freedom

Having fun in the outdoor nursery

, Freedomy , Freedom 

Another of my favourites.

, Freedom

I was all alone on the boardwalk, having hung back when all the tourists went to the feeding platform when I heard the distinctive rustling of leaves that told me an orangutan was close by.  A few moments later Kolapis swung down from the tree and climbed onto the boardwalk in the most awkward manner – head first under the bottom plank, slid in a little, then a head-over-heels to get the rest of his body on.

, FreedomHe then realised that I was there and looked rather embarrassed!, Freedom I kept my distance and as no ranger was around, he took advantage of having a little chill out time.  I inched forward slowly and quietly and eventually crouched right down, and we spent 5 minutes together, just him and me.  It was a precious time…., FreedomA very pregnant Cinta is below.

, FreedomBelow is mum Clenan with baby Awantang.  In the second image you can just see Awantang’s foot and hand as he clings on.

, Freedom , Freedom , FreedomCinta at full stretch was rewarded with some tasty leaves. , Freedom , Freedom , Freedom , Freedom , FreedomJust look at this grin – I love it!

, Freedom , Freedom , FreedomI wonder what she’s thinking….

, Freedom , FreedomBelow is little Goman who (at the time of writing) is still in the outdoor nursery, but had gone to the public feeding platform for a second breakfast.  He does love his green beans, and often stands upright.  He also often stands with one leg in the air holding his food with his foot when he’s eating! 

, Freedom 

, Freedom , Freedom , FreedomThe two images below make me smile – it’s almost as if the OU is stealing food from the basket whilst the ranger is looking the other way, then pretending that nothing at all happened when he looks back.  Even the ranger is finding it funny., Freedom , Freedom , Freedom

, FreedomThat is the end of my blog posts about Sepilok and the orangutans although I’ll do one more with random photos of other things.  People keep asking if I will go back to Sepilok and whilst I was there I thought that I’ve done it now and there’s no need to do it again.  I also hated the humidity 🙁 As time goes on though I’m now not so sure as I do miss the fantastic ginger apes. I was also lucky enough to have a great bunch of other volunteers on the programme and it wouldn’t be the same again. But, never say never………, Freedom

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2 thoughts on “Freedom

  1. Hi Julie
    Have stumbled across your blog – I go to Sepilok in January ’19 and your posts have made me so excited for it. Can I ask a random question, what camera did you use? I assume a compact DSLR as opposed to a phone?

    1. Hi Claire. I’m so excited for you and a tiny bit envious too as you have it to look forward to! I use a Fuji X-T2 and for all of the images taken of the OrangUtans in the public areas I used a 100-400 zoom lens. Absolutely no photos are allowed ‘behind the scenes’ when you are close to them and you don’t get very close to the OUs in the public areas, so because of the long lens I was able to get photos that my fellow volunteers didn’t. Don’t even take your phone when working – you’ll get severely reprimanded! (On the trekking week however you are allowed to take photos.) Have the most amazing time!

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