We’d seen the sign for Matang every time we left or returned to The Kebun. It really was just a short distance down the road. After our trip to Semenggoh, we thought we’d pay a visit to Matang too and asked Adrian about it. What he told us confirmed that we really should make that tiny effort.
And so on our penultimate day we dropped by and spent an enchanting couple of hours there.
Matang is very much like Semenggoh in that it rehabilitates wild animals. Unlike Semenggoh, however, the work is very much in the forefront. It doesn’t really put up a song and dance and isn’t really set up for the spectacle. Although you can book accommodation on the premises, it is indeed very focussed on the business of healing, caring for, and reintroducing certain species to the wild where possible.
Matang is part of the Kubah National Park and as such you can expect hiking trails and so on too. We were more interested in what Matang itself had to offer though. And we weren’t disappointed by any means.
When we entered the centre, we first spied a few very large cages and aviaries. The wires of cages prevented any nice pictures being taken but we spied some primates as well as Hornbills. This last aviary had very fine-holed double wire fences. I asked one of the workers there if there was a reason for this - snakes perhaps? He did say the Hornbills had tremendous strength in their beaks but was less clear in his reply about snakes. I’d imagine a snake in one of these aviaries could wreak havoc, though I have seen a cobra come out the loser in a tussle with a pair of kingfishers once.
There was also a large cage with a very young Sun Bear in it. This cute chap kept running back and forth, playing with various things in his space, including a large ball, and dipping himself in a water trough at one end. He left us breathless just watching his endless traipsing.
|There was a large crocodile enclosure and you almost couldn't see them, so well camouflaged in the mud or water were they.|
|This young sun bear kept trotting from one end of his cage to the other. It really was quite tiring watching him!|
Some of the staff came up the platform we were on - all caucasian ladies including one or two who seemed fairly new to Matang. They explained to us that one or two of the orangutan had just returned from some time in the jungle and were exhausted. We laughingly identified them without problem - one lay on her back with a hand over her eyes in a ‘I’ve had a rough night out and why is the darn sun so bright?’ posture while the other, a much younger fella, looked like he’d had a few too many pints of lager and really couldn’t care how he looked lying there in a crumpled heap.
|I really have no idea why she was doing this, but she kept it up for a long time indeed.|
|This is Aman the other large male in the area.|
|These two had just returned from some time in the jungle and were clearly exhausted!|
|More sun bears.|
We chatted with the ladies and told them of our trip to Semenggoh. They told us that Matang had a couple of large males and the one in the other enclosure had not been able to get along with Ritchie and was thus moved to Matang. The males do need a very large territory - from 500 to 4000 hectares - and this means that the area available in Semenggoh is simply not big enough to support two alpha males. The two had had some tussles and it was thought it would one day end in tragedy so the two were separated.
Looking at creatures that have roughly human shapes, it’s easy to anthropomorphise. Thing is, what do we really know about how these creatures think? We look at orangutans and see furry, cuddly creatures who sometimes seem to smile at us or reach out tenderly with their so0human hands. And we forget a couple of things - firstly that these creatures are much more adapted to the wild than we are and that those gentle-looking hands can grip with astonishing tenacity and tear things apart with great strength. And secondly, we forget that despite their strength and their near-human actions, they are also very vulnerable and helpless. As we destroy their habitat - and we do so at a tragic rate - so too do we destroy their future.
Places like Semenggoh and Matang, and Sepilok, exist to counter this imbalance. The people who staff these centres work very hard to help the endangered species under their care maintain their numbers. The ill are treated and the healthy are hopefully rehabilitated to be independent in the wild once again.
Sadly, some will never return fully to the wild. In the case of Aman he’s had to deal with a cataract operation - the first ever on an orangutan - in May 2007 and despite his much improved eyesight, I wonder if there really is enough habitat for him. Meanwhile, there are places like Matang where they are retaught their jungle skills, and where people may come and see them and hopefully be moved to do something about slowing down the rate at which the jungles are cleared just so that the natural habitat or orangutans and many other species of flora and fauna may be safeguarded and protected.
This Kuching trip was a great eye-opener in some ways. Not just to the natural beauty of Malaysia, but also to the goodness in so many of her people. Adrian and Olivia are hospitable folk, and the few people I met in and around Kuching were just the same, mixing and accepting in a warm and embracing way that we on the Peninsula seem to have largely forgotten.
I think we’ll be back pretty soon…
For more information about Matang, see here and for Kubah see here.
For a Matang volunteer’s record of her time helping animals, see here.
To volunteer yourself, here’s one place you can start.