KOTA KINABALU: When Sue Sheward visited the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan for the first time 18 years ago, she saw the challenges faced by the state in translocating and rehabilitating the protected species.
After being briefed by the centre’s then officer-in-charge Dr Sen Nathan, the Briton decided to devote her life towards wildlife conservation, specifically the orangutan.
Sabah Wildlife director Augustine Tuuga recalled that Sheward, who had founded Orangutan Appeal UK in 2000, started to raise funds through humble ways.
“During the early days of her charity work, she organised small lucky draws, or raffles as they are called in the UK, at local pubs close to her just to make a few pounds to save the orangutans.
“Besides that, her small but loyal team of supporters used to go door-to-door and sell a variety of homemade goodies, ranging from cookies to jams,” he added.
Augustine added that with Sheward’s sheer passion and determination, Orangutan Appeal UK now has a supporter base of more than 30,000 people worldwide.
To date, it has raised more than RM12 million for wildlife conservation in Sabah, refurbishment of the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and sponsorship of eight local staff to work there, among others.
Augustine said the charity body would not only continue supporting the department for orangutan conservation but also work to raise awareness on the plight of Borneo elephants and support the department’s critically important Wildlife Rescue Unit.
The unit, which was set up nine years ago, is funded by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council. It has rescued close to 3,000 wildlife species which were either injured or displaced, including those that strayed into towns or farmlands.
Last year, Orangutan Appeal UK also pledged RM1 million to Sabah over the next five years, which includes allocations for the purchase of three new 4-wheel-drive vehicles for animal rescue.
Meanwhile, Sheward said she felt honoured to be part of the conservation efforts in Sabah.
“I cannot tell how much it warms my heart to be able to help Sabah Wildlife. To be allowed to join in these conservation efforts makes me very proud,” she added.