Matang Wildlife Centre is currently the only centre on Borneo that opens its doors to all protected wildlife species in need. This makes the potential of Matang to be a conservation tool for endangered species almost unlimited – however it also presents a huge challenge as it is almost impossible to be adequately informed about the basic biology, ecology and rehabilitation techniques of every animal living on Borneo!
We hope that it can function as a rehabilitation centre where possible, though the truth is that most animals that arrive to centres like this are not great candidates for release back to the wild. A lot of the media surrounding animal rescue centres focuses on the good-news stories, providing the feel-good factor (often to elicit donations from viewers/readers) and creating the impression that rescuing animals and subsequently releasing them is the standard procedure and easily done.
Unfortunately, this is incredibly far from the truth, and the reality on the ground often leads visitors to ‘rehabilitation’ centres feeling jaded; as if they have just spent time in a make-shift zoo rather than a rehabilitation centre. People assume all the animals will be outside of enclosures, again due in large part to the Western media portraying close encounters with wild animals as safe, desirable and common place in centres like Matang (as we’ve previously explained, such close encounters are completely counterproductive to rehabilitation anyway; see our No Contact Policy for more details)
The vast majority of the animals resident at Matang have been confiscated or surrendered from illicit pet trade; this means taken from their natural habitat (often as a result of their mums being killed), kept in highly inadequate housing for days/weeks/years, fed an incorrect diet and being incredibly humanised. All of these factors mean that an animal rescued from this is unlikely to return to a successful life in the wild. You should have a read of the IUCN Guidelines for the Placement of Confiscated Animals for an academic and detailed look at the problems faced by centres receiving these animals, and the courses of action recommended.
This does not mean a centre like Matang is all doom and gloom. Animals that are lucky enough to be rescued from illegal captivity deserve to see a better side of humans, and this we can do by providing sanctuary for them. A large part of the work of our volunteers at Matang is making conditions better every day for the animals that spend all of their time in captivity, and this is incredibly meaningful work. We can make such a huge difference to these individuals, and let them see that humans can be decent, and life can be enjoyable rather than torturous.
A few months ago, Matang received a juvenile slow loris. Deemed too young to be released, we have been providing daily care and she has been doing very well. We do hope to release this little creature, though not without a means of tracking her and monitoring her progress. From the photo here, you can see how beautiful these animals are, and undeniably CUTE! However, this is a twisted case of ‘if looks could kill’, as these animals are in high demand through the illegal animal markets and are traded worldwide. As with all mammals, this involves youngsters being ripped from their dead mums in the wild, and in the case of slow loris often mutilated beyond repair – to make them ‘safer’ pets their teeth are commonly pulled out or clipped, with no anaesthetic or care given. Many die from the stress, pain and subsequent infections.
These shy, nocturnal animals can be particularly susceptible to stress in captivity, so it is important to provide a quiet area where they can remain undisturbed as much as possible. One of our volunteers in January, Sheree Brooks, brought across a generous donation from a neighbour, who felt inspired to send her on her way with some cash when he heard what she was doing with her holiday. With this, we decided to construct a holding cage for these animals that need a quieter place to reside.
With the help of volunteers this month, Dom has led construction of this area, and has done a wonderful job! At the moment, the slow loris is still residing in the vet clinic, but we now have a more naturalistic area that we are able to fill with the jungle for her have some peace and get used to the sounds and feel of the jungle. It will also serve for future slow loris and tarsiers that get surrendered to Matang and need a temporary place to stay in peace.
Huge thanks to Sheree for facilitating the donation, and to our June volunteers for working so hard on getting this done in record time.