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Bahorok Orangutans Center – North Sumatra – Indonesia

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Bahorok Orangutans Center – North Sumatra – Indonesia

Sumatra, in Indonesia, is a natural reserve and forest land with acres and acres of forests, and woods, and a large variety of wildlife, avian life, flora and fauna. And, this aspect of Sumatra is an attractive option for tourists, especially those who love nature, and would like to spend time in the wilderness while on a vacation. One such attractive spot that attracts people is the Bohorok Orang-utan Viewing Centre.

Located just outside Bukit Lawang Gunung Leuser National Park, in Sumatra, the Bohorok Orang-utan Viewing Centre is about 90 kms from Medan. The Bohorok Orang-utan Viewing Centre is a famous rehabilitation centre that was set up in 1973, by two Swiss zoologists, Regina Frey and Monica Boerner, to help primates to get readjusted to the wild after confinement or dislocation.

The orangutans of Sumatra are an endangered species, with loss of habitat, and poaching pushing them towards extinction. The Bohorok Orang-utan Viewing Centre is an effort to preserve and save these animals that are quickly dying out. After it was opened in 1973, with funding coming from the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Bohorok Orang-utan Viewing Centre has seen almost 200 orangutans released into the wilderness.

The Bohorok Orang-utan Viewing Centre is a center where a visitor can closely watch semi-wild orangutans, where they are being trained to return to their native habitat after being freed from captivity. In 2002, a new quarantine centre was set up outside Medan, as an additional facility with the Bohorok Orang-utan Viewing Centre. As this center, named Bukit Lawang Centre became operational, the Bohorok Orang-utan Viewing Centre has been restricted to be the home of old and sick orangutans.

The Bohorok Centre for ex-captive Sumatran orangutans was established in 1973 by two Swiss zoologists, Regina Frey and Monica Boerner, with funding originally provided by the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). In 1980 the Centre was taken over by the Indonesian Government. Since then it has received virtually no outside funding, and it no longer operates as a rehabilitation centre for orangutans. It survives on a portion of the permit money paid by visitors. The rangers are paid by the Government.

Since it opened in 1973 more than 200 orangutans have been released. It is wonderful when rehabilitated females conceive and give birth in the forest. It means the centre has increased the orangutan population as well as giving the infant a chance to grow up in a protected forest area.

Although the Bohorok Centre no longer operates as a rehabilitation centre, Bohorok’s staff remain responsible for approximately 35 ex-captive orangutans who are free to come and go into the surrounding forest. The centre has been closed to admitting more orangutans since 1996. The centre no longer meets modern standards of species re-introduction. Furthermore, the area is already over-saturated with orangutans, and therefore not suitable for releasing more rehabilitants. Releasing ex-captive apes into areas of forest where wild populations exist also risks importing disease. For these and other valid reasons, Bohorok cannot be modified and updated to function again as a rehabilitation centre. The Indonesian government is winding down the project, and funds for maintenance and improvements have decreased.

The apes who remain at Bohorok still need to be cared for, facilities upgraded, further training provided for staff, and controlled eco-tourism implemented. This will require not only funding, but also a comprehensive local education programme to promote sustainable development at Bohorok.

The centre remains open to tourists, providing the incredible opportunity of viewing orangutans in the semi-wild on daily excursions to the feeding platform, an experience which galvanizes support for their conservation and well-being, and fuels the local economy.

It is essential that visitors refrain from touching or feeding the orangutans as they are susceptible to many human illnesses which their immune systems cannot deal with.

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