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Abdul Rahman H M (2001) Visitor profile and satisfaction survey at Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, Sarawak, Malaysia, Hornbill 5:nn-nn  




The primary purpose of the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is to enable captive animals to return to the forest and become ‘semi-wild’. The Centre is popular with tourists, and receives about 2500 visitors per month. However, a number of letters of complaint have been received about the conditions at the Centre, all from Western visitors.

A survey was carried out to get a more general picture of the level of satisfaction of Western visitors with the Centre and their experience there. Over 80% of the foreign visitors came to see orang utan, and the level of satisfaction with the experience of seeing the semi-wild orang utan in the forest was high, but they expressed dissatisfaction when they saw small cages and captive animals.

A new feeding platform has been constructed outside the Centre, and visitors should be encouraged to go there rather than inside the Centre.



Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is located 12 miles from Kuching inside Semenggoh Nature Reserve, 653 hectares of evergreen tropical dipterocarp forest. It opened in 1971 as a Rehabilitation Centre for orang utan and gibbon.

The Centre is well known for its semi-wild orang utan population. Currently there are seventeen orang utan living in the Nature Reserve, including five infants – all born at the Centre – still with their mothers. Although all are quite capable of looking for their own food in the forest, supplementary food is offered on a feeding platform twice daily, and some animals usually come to feed. Visitors are allowed to watch the orang utan feeding at the platform and this is a major attraction.

To date the centre has received approximately 750,000 visitor, currently about 2500 visitors per month. These visitors, with different origins and backgrounds, have different needs and expectations.

The problems faced by the management team include complaints from visitors about unsatisfactory facilities, which are said to be out of date and do not fit the present expectations of visitors, and about the animals in small cages. However, there has never been any survey of visitor satisfaction, which makes it difficult for management to make the right decisions on how to satisfy visitors.

The aims of this study was to collect data about visitors’ perceptions of existing facilities and wildlife in cages, to identify the needs and expectation of visitors coming to the Centre, and to recommend improvements or changes to the National Park and Wildlife Division.



Letters of complaint
All available letters of complaint sent to the government by visitors in the past few years were reviewed and analysed.

Visitor survey
All the letters of complaint were from Westerners, so the opinion survey sampled only visitors of Western appearance. Self-completion questionnaires were handed out to visitors at the exit to the Centre and collected before they departed. The first, fifth and tenth groups to leave the centre were interviewed (a ‘group’ could be an individual visitor or a couple).



Letters of complaint
From the letters analysed, the writers are not very happy with the situation of the animals when they made a visit to the centre. Specific points made were:

  • visitors that are too close to the orang utan,
  • visitors taking photographs with flash,
  • animal cages too small,
  • stressed animals in cages without activity, and
  • calling of orang-utan during feeding time.

Visitor Survey
The majority of respondents were Australians (29%), followed by British (19%), other Europeans (39%), and North Americans (7%).

Of the 72 visitors surveyed, 59 (81%) said they came to the Centre specifically to see orang utan and 13 (18%) to see nature in general. Apart from the orang utan, 23 out of 59 had looked at other animals at the Centre, 18 had ‘looked around’ and 9 had visited the botanical garden near to the Centre. When asked which attractions they looked at most, 53 (74%) replied orang-utan, 11 (15%) forest, animals or nature generally. Six respondents replied "none" to this question.

When asked about improvements to the Centre, 61% suggested that cages should be bigger with a better environment for the animals, 18 wanted more information and signs, and 9 wanted the Centre to be kept more natural.

Most of the visitors surveyed (85%) were satisfied or highly satisfied with their experience of orang utan, but five (7%) said they were highly dissatisfied.



Almost all the foreign visitors came to see orang utan. The level of satisfaction with the experience was generally high, but complaints from individuals highlighted the negative side of allowing contact between visitor with semi-wild orang utan.

Many visitors would like to see captive animals in bigger cages and a better environment, with good information and interpretive signs.



This survey used a small sample of Western visitors only. A longer and more comprehensive survey would give better results.

Visitors were very happy to see the semi-wild orang utan and other animals but they expressed dissatisfaction when they saw small cages and captive animals. A new feeding platform has been constructed since the survey with a small river between the visitors and the animals. Other information from the survey can be used to improve visitors’ experience at the Centre and to enable the Department to allocate appropriate funds for facilities for both animals and visitors.


1 Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, c/o National Parks and Wildlife Division, Wisma Sumber Alam, 93660 Petra Jaya, Kuching.