Skip to main content


Orangutans at Sepilok tested for COVID-19

Sabah Wildlife Department have tested all the orangutans in their care thanks to funding from Orangutan Appeal UK.



Sabah Wildlife Department have tested all orangutans in their care, thanks to funding from Orangutan Appeal UK.

Sabah Wildlife Department have issued the following press release: 

All captive orangutans in facilities managed by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) have tested negative for Covid-19, said SWD Assistant Director Dr Sen Nathan.

The facilities involved are the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park.

“As we had Covid-19 positive cases among the keepers and staff working at two of the facilities in Sabah that house captive and semi-captive orangutans, we immediately initiated full lockdown at the primate facility by testing all orangutans to ensure they are free of the infection,” he said.

“Testing for Covid-19 has been a vital tool in helping us get through this pandemic, and it is similarly important for this orangutan population, because the disease could prove vastly detrimental to their health and setback their rehabilitation.

“With all results coming back negative, this is a testament to the stringent care being carried out by our staff.”

SWD Director Augustine Tuuga said a total of 30 orangutans were tested by a veterinary team from the Department and Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) headed by Dr Rosa Sipangkui, Dr Nabila Sarkawi and assisted by Dr Mischellena Samanthan and Dr Umamaheswary Kalamanathan.

“Thankfully, all the orang-utans tested negative for Covid 19. I have directed our veterinary team to continue to monitor all the orangutans closely for any signs and symptoms of Covid-19 infection and to repeat the test on a scheduled basis,” he said.

He also said this is the first time that any orangutan has been tested using a Covid-19 antigen test.

“As it is of our utmost priority to make sure the health and wellbeing of the orang-utans are given the best veterinary care possible.

“We are grateful to Orangutan Appeal UK (OAUK) Chairperson Datuk Sue Sheward for coming forward without hesitation to assist us in the funding of the Covid-19 antigen test kits, pulse oximeters, preventive medication for the orang-utans and staff of Sepilok and WRU. Sue said “orangutans share 96.4 per cent of human DNA.
“It is vital we are able to test them for the virus in order to continue to protect the species.

“Similarly, the health and well-being of our staff is important as they have been working as normal throughout the pandemic to provide the same high level of care they have always done,” she said.

This year, Orangutan Appeal UK will also be supporting the conservation activities that will be conducted by Sabah Wildlife Department’s newly formed unit called the Endangered Species Conservation Unit that is based in Lahad Datu as well as supporting the Wildlife Rescue Unit and Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

Explore more articles