Orangutans existence threatened by coronavirus

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre has closed its doors to the public as the highly infectious Covid-19 arrives in Borneo.


Staff members at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Borneo are putting their own lives at risk to care for vulnerable orphaned orangutans.  

Increased hygiene standards have been put in place to try to mitigate potential transmission of the virus. This carries its own problems as vital equipment such as gloves, disinfectant and face masks are in severely limited supply. 

Susan Sheward, founder and chairwoman of Orangutan Appeal UK, said: "This disease could be fatal for the already critically endangered orangutan, it is a risk that we cannot afford take. OAUK will do everything it can to make sure that the orangutans at Sepilok stay healthy and safe.”


What is happening in the world is devastating. When this is over what will be left? 

One scared female orangutan was found clinging to a lone tree in the stark wasteland of what was once her rainforest home. The Wildlife Rescue Team - supported by Orangutan Appeal UK - came to her rescue in her extreme time of need.  She was transported to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre to receive expert medical attention.   

The overstretched team fed her, treated her for dehydration and stayed with her overnight.  She has now been released into a more suitable environment with the hope that her experience has not scarred her.  These types of rescues are happening too regularly. This story had a happy ending but not all do.

Without orangutans, the ecosystem within the rainforest stands little chance of survival.  Without a suitable rainforest home, orangutans will become extinct in the wild. Without the orangutan, the lungs of the earth will struggle to breathe.  

With every day that Sepilok is closed, vital funds are being lost, staff may not get paid. This loss of essential funds could have a devastating effect.

This Article 

Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist. This article is based on a press release from Orangutan Appeal UK. 

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