When an orangutan infant was brought to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, it was already without a mother. Had the mother been separated from her infant, or starved to death, or been killed by a human? Whatever the case, there was very little chance that the infant would meet her again. The orphaned orangutan infant was inside its cage wearing a towel on its head. It must have felt uneasy without being wrapped up in something. There was also an orphan who, because of serious trauma, couldn't keep down its food. Due to deforestation as a result of lumbering and agricultural development, a large number of Borneo's endemic species are facing critical conditions. At the point where civilization and the wild collide, orphaned wild animals will likely continue to grow.

The Clash Between Civilization And The Wild

The island of Borneo, which is split between the countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei, was once covered with a lush tropical rainforest, but in the wake of ongoing deforestation and the expansion of plantation farming, the habitats of the island’s endemic and endangered species are being destroyed rapidly. Relentless deforestation has precipitated the loss of 90% of the orangutan population in just 100 years. At this rate, some expect this species to become extinct within the next 20 years. The Orangutan Rehabilitation Center is an animal protection facility for the rehabilitation of wild animals. There, young, motherless orangutan orphans received food from humans and practiced crossing ropes stretched between trees. The point is not to have them perform circus tricks rather, the practice is important for an eventual return to the forest. Normally, baby orangutans learn what to eat and how to live in the treetops while clinging to their mothers. Overwhelmed by logging and plantation development, however, orphans ripped from their mothers' bodies are unable to learn anything. Moreover, many of the orphans suffered deep psychological trauma. Some stared with hollow eyes at a single point in their cage, some vomited their food, and some sought hugs. The staff acted as parents, watching over the orphans day by day. However, there are some individuals who cannot return, and continue living in the vicinity of the center even into adulthood. Like humans, orangutans have various personalities. One day, I came across a strange sight in the woods. An orangutan was using a towel to protect himself from the rain. The scene looked to me like the appearance of a modern animal wandering into the collision point between civilization and the wild.

 © 2023 by Yosuke Kashiwakura

  • Yosuke Kashiwakura