Friday, August 7

‘Ritchie’ the star orangutan a rare sight for visiting US diplomat at wildlife centre


KUCHING: US Ambassador to Malaysia Paul W. Jones can consider himself very lucky for being able to view the oldest and biggest orangutan during his visit to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre near here yesterday.

ONE FOR THE ALBUM: Paul W. Jones (fifth right) takes a group photo with the SFC team during his visit to Sememggoh Wildlife Centre near Kuching.

Staff at the centre said that the orangutan, named Ritchie, had not appeared for feeding over the last two weeks or so but surprisingly almost as soon as Jones arrived at the feeding area Ritchie also suddenly emerged from the jungle of the rainforest.

Jones who was brought around the centre by Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) Manager of Conservation Oswald Braken Tisen and other officials, was apparently amazed with the presence of the semi-wild orangutans coming to the feeding area for their meal which of course had always been the main attraction for tourists coming to the centre.

Among others Jones, who was on an official visit to the state, was also taken to tour the facilities around the area, which comprises of a wildlife rehabilitation centre, an arboretum, and a botanical research centre.

Semenggoh Wildlife Centre was established in 1975 to care for wild animals found injured in the forest, orphaned or rescued from being kept as illegal pets as part of the state’s environmental conservation activities.

Such effort had gained good support from worldwide organisations, including the US government who had funded an estimated RM591,000 for environmental conservation activities in Sarawak since 2004.

A statement from the US Embassy press office said through grants from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US government had supported surveys that found orangutan living in peat swamps in Sebuyau National Park and Sedilu National Park, which the state has designated as totally protected areas.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service, part of the US Department of the Interior, is the leading US Federal agency for the development of international wildlife conservation grants and capacity building, the statement said.

Among the environmental and conservation activities in Sarawak funded by the US government were the orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) conservation, conservation of Bornean Gibbons (Hylobates muelleri) and conservation of Nornean orangutans through community engagement in Batang Ai National Park and Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary.