Camp Leakey

Camp Leakey was founded in 1971 and is the oldest and largest research centre in the park for the study and rehabilitation of orangutans. It is where Dr Birute Galdikas (the founder) began her career studying the behaviour of rescued and orphaned orangutans that were reintroduced to the wilderness. Dr Galdikas is also the president of the Orangutan Foundation International and is considered the world’s leading expert on orangutan behaviour.

The klotok journey from Rimba Ecolodge to Camp Leakey takes about 2 ½ to 3 hours, with an amazing view of the rainforest. We often spotted proboscis monkeys on the trees, as well as crocodiles in the river. Furthermore, as we went deeper into the jungle it was quite interesting to see how the river water became cleaner and clearer as we move further away from the city.  


Camp Leakey is managed under the Orangutan Foundation International (“OFI”). Originally, it was to study the ecology and behaviour of wild orangutans. But now it has turned its focus towards conservation, protection, rehabilitation and education of orangutans. The OFI takes in injured, ex-captive and orphaned orangutans. They are then raised and/or treated for diseases or injuries in the Care Centre. They are taken each day by their keepers to Camp Leakey where they can play and associate with others in a natural habitat. Once they are old enough and deemed suitable and capable, they are released back into the wild.


When we arrived at Camp Leakey, we were immediately greeted by Percy, one of the most famous and cheekiest orangutans in the camp. He is also famous for climbing onto the boats and rummaging through your belongings, so we were warned to keep all our bags closed and grouped together.

Percy, Camp Leakey, Central Borneo

Percy is the son of a female orangutan named Princess and was born and living in the wild. His mother was a freed former captive orangutan that Dr Galdikas once rescued, rehabilitated and returned to the wild. Orangutan babies are nurtured and carried by their mothers until the age of six to eight. Afterwards, they are encouraged by their mothers to leave the family unit and be independent. They become adolescents when they reach ten years of age, which is when they become most active in terms of socialisation.


Our second encounter with an orangutan is with Siswi. the daughter of Siswoyo. Siswi was the first orangutan that was born to an exceptive at Camp Leakey. She is very popular with visitors and researchers.

A few years back she suffered from a perforated intestine and almost died. Through surgery and extensive caregiving, along with her strong will to live she is very much alive today.

One of the smartest and most dominant in personality, she managed to take away my umbrella and opened it! It was one of the most beautiful encounters with a living being I have ever had.



After our encounters with Percy and Siswi, we had to walk into the jungle for about 20 minutes to catch the afternoon feeding. Feedings are conducted by the Camp’s staff in a special area on a wooden stage, where visitors can watch very silently from afar.

Once we arrived at the feeding site, we had to sit down in the observation area and wait for the staff to bring in a few large bags of bananas. Once the staff voiced out the usual callings for food, you can see several of the trees shaking and you just realise that some of them are already right above you!

Slowly but surely some of these orangutans would swing from tree to tree and eventually climb down until they reach the bottom.


After some of them arrive into the feeding area, they all gathered and have a meal together. Just like a normal family dinner, with the mothers tending to their babies.


After some of them arrive into the feeding area, they all gathered and have a meal together. Just like a normal family dinner, with the mothers tending to their babies.



There can only be one male in the scene. The “head” in this instance is Carlos. However, he is not the alpha male in this camp. (Tom, the ruling alpha male, who took over from the legendary Kusasih years ago, was nowhere to be scene, unfortunately!)


Because of the territorial nature of orangutans, there can only be one male at the dinner table. If the alpha male suddenly shows up, or there is another “higher” male in the area, then Carlos would have to make way for him and will run away as fast and far away as he can. But at this moment, he is enjoying his superiority as being the boss at the dinner table!