It has been brought to our attention by our good friends at Friends of the Orangutans Malaysia that each month, British company Travellers Worldwide sends up to 12 unqualified, paying individuals to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) to take part in the ‘rehabilitation’ of rescued or recovering orangutans.
Whilst at first glance, or to the untrained eye, this programme may appear to have the best of intentions, FOTO Malaysia have been researching this issue deeply for a long time and have found that the programme does has something of a dark underbelly.
There are a wide variety of reasons why the programme could be described as unethical or unsustainable, but in a nutshell, the main take-away point is this: allowing unskilled volunteers to have contact with orangutans is dangerous for both animal and human and can have serious negative impacts for orangutans under rehabilitation. Without their mothers, orphaned orangutans need familiarity and trust, but should not learn to trust humans in general. They should bond only with a minimal number of qualified caregivers. It is irresponsible to allow an ever-changing group of volunteers to work hands-on with rehabilitant orangutans, because this risks the orangutans becoming habituated to humans, putting their futures in peril.