Little know to the wider public, the
Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre is situated on the fringes
of a forest reserve with a well documented history, the Kabili
The Kabili Forest Reserve is a
Class VI Virgin Jungle Reserve (VJR)
with an area of approximately 5529 hectares (Kabili-Sepilok 4,294 ha
and Sepilok 1235 ha.) The
Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre
(SORC) is on the northern edge of the VJR. In the north, adjacent to
the VJR, is the Sepilok Arboretum and the Forest
Research Centre. The Forest Research Centre (FRC) and the
Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre are administered by the Sabah
Forestry Department and the Sabah Wildlife Department respectively.
A trail, the Mangrove Trail, stretches about 5.5 km from SORC to the
Sepilok-Laut Reception Centre, located in the Sepilok FR (Class VI).
There are small bridges and bird-watching towers built by British
volunteer groups brought in by the SORC management.
History & Management
In the days of the Chartered Company Mr.
Pryer owned a coffee plantation on the lower Kabili River, in the
southwest of the present VJR. This was abandoned in about 1910
following an outbreak of disease amongst the labourers and a slump
in the coffee trade. There was another coffee plantation in the
south-eastern portion. A graveyard is said to exist on the lower
left bank of the Kabili River. Occasional coffee trees could still
be seen in the area in the late 1960s. This, and probably other
areas with timber fringing the rivers, was logged around 1890-1900,
maybe on a highly selective basis and by hand. Two of the earliest
known logging operations were in 1911 and 1929. Earlier records
relating to exploitation and other activities are not available.
During the Second World War, the Forest Department personnel stayed
inside the VJR.
Low impact forest exploitation by means of hand logging and by
tractor were conducted in the northeast and most of the southern
part of the reserve from 1919 until it was discontinued in 1957. In
1948, several hundred hectares of forest in the northern part of the
FR were silviculturally treated by removal of woody climbers and
non-productive trees that hampered the regeneration of potentially
commercial trees, such as Shorea johorensis, Parashorea
tomentella and Eusideroxylon zwageri (Belian). The effect
of this liberation treatment on the forest stand in this area is
unknown. However, the treated forest is structurally comparable to
the other old growth forest in the region. Since 1957, the primary
functions of the Kabili-Sepilok VJR have been forestry research, and
simultaneously, the preservation of some of the major forest types
In 1964, the Game Branch of the Department maintained a station in
the north for the rehabilitation of orang-utans. The Branch has
since been made into a department by itself, the Wildlife
Department, and the station came to be known as the Sepilok
Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre.
The Kabili-Sepilok VJR was gazetted in 3 phases: in 1931 some 2,334
ha were gazetted. This area encompassed much of the drainage of the
Kabili, Sepilok Kecil and Sepilok Besar rivers.
In 1938, another 1,874 ha on the eastern side were gazetted and in
1965 a further 264 ha were added on the north and south-east.
The VJR is managed by the Sabah Forestry Department and no logging
has been allowed since 1957. In 1984, the VJR was formally gazetted
as a Class VI Forest Reserve.
The various forest types, animals found
and the extensive supporting research since the 1930ís, and nature
educational facilities make this VJR very special indeed and due to
its accessibility yield also good tourism potentials other than just
the orang utan rehabilitation centre. It is with this in mind that
the Sabah Forestry Department is developing the Sepilok Arboretum to
provide another destination for visitors. The Rainforest
Interpretation Centre, with its exhibition halls, gardens and
surrounding forest, will be a major tourist destination in the near