Harriet's Return from Samboja Lestari

Harriet's Return from Samboja Lestari

Posted by Sam Hopkins on 8th May 2015

The month of May is finally upon us, and with it comes the run up to a British summer. Let's hope the weather holds out this year! Harriet from our team has recently returned from another spell at our newest orangutan based project – the 'Samboja Lestari Orangutan Volunteer Project'. By all accounts it was another fantastic success, and Harriet maintains that this project is one of our most personal and rewarding! Let's have a few words with our project developer and leader herself. Harriet – take it away!

What was different about the project this time?

The predominant thing that I realised had changed for the better this time was the ease in which the resident staff worked with both myself and with the group of volunteers. The work was far more fluid and all the volunteers gelled really well with the fantastic staff members. As time goes on, we are hoping that this interaction between staff facilitators and incoming volunteers will just keep getting easier and easier.

It was also really great to see the island, which volunteers had done some construction work on last August, built and resident to the male orangutan Bujang and his girlfriend Anih! Bujang had previously been in an individual cage but now, thanks to the work of Augusts' volunteers and some external, donations, we were able to see him enjoying his time in the open on one of the orangutan islands. This time we were looking to continue the success of last year's project, ultimately culminating in an extensive range of similar outcomes for the 200+ orangutans resident in Samboja Lestari.

What did the volunteers get up to this time?

This time the volunteers worked really hard to construct a new quarantine area onsite next to the established veterinary clinic. This was hard work for everyone involved, but this new area is a fantastic new addition to the centre as a whole. Ultimately, it means that rescues of emergency cases can occur with regularity, as babies considered to have TB and other life-threatening diseases will be able to be rescued and rehabilitated without putting the other babies resident at Samboja at risk. Given its location, the new quarantine area also allows vets easy access to these babies at any time – day or night. It was great to see all the volunteers work so hard towards creating this area, and it's going to be a massive help to Samboja as a whole.

Again, a key factor of the orangutan sanctuary volunteer work here is revolved around the creation of enrichment for the orangutans. This year, a group of the volunteers were so kind as to purchase and subsequently donate a freezer to the centre. The orangutans will certainly be happy – this addition means that we will be able to store double the amount of enrichment for the orangutans, which means we can make significantly more, ultimately resulting in 2 forms of enrichment daily for every orangutan in enclosures or on the islands at Samboja Lestari. Volunteers also got really stuck in to branch collections, even when it was pouring with rain. I think that the volunteers particularly enjoyed this, as the reward of seeing an orangutan build its nest is a real thrill!

What are the plans for the future at Samboja Lestari?

We have a lot of plans for the development of the project at Samboja Lestari. Similar to the construction of the quarantine area this year, we are looking to construct our own volunteer area in the near future so that myself and the volunteers will be able to be able to take over a whole area without getting in the way of the staff and their day to day work. This way volunteers can really get stuck in with the enrichment side of things, meaning that the orangutans would have a constant stream of unique enrichment. I also hope that we can also work on readying 2 more islands for some non-releasable orangutans that are currently in cages.

The biggest plan is to make this orangutan volunteer project a constant running program, with our new facilitator Kate on board, who I will be travelling out with later in July. The volunteer project will become a monthly project so our work can be continuous and reliable- This summer it will be for 4 months, next year it will be 8 months and after that we hope to run year round.

Kate our new facilitator has previously worked at the MONA chimpanzee sanctuary in Spain and on a terrestrial research project on Mafia Island in Tanzania. We're thrilled to welcome her to The Great Projects' team and I can't wait to work with her and teach her the ropes as it were!

What was your highlight of the trip?

As always, one of my highlights of the trip was meeting and working with a diverse range of volunteers. All were from different backgrounds, but it was great to see them all working so hard alongside one another. I'd like to say a huge thank you to all of the volunteers from this trip, and I feel that I've made a number of firm friends from it!

Another huge highlight for me actually started as one of the lowest moments. During our time on the project, a young orangutan was brought in that sadly looked like it had contracted TB. This was another reason for us all constructing the quarantine area. However, we recently found out that this orangutan (named WoWo) had been tested and was TB free! He can now join the other babies in Forest School One – great news!

Wow – sounds like a great trip! If you would like to join this incredible project alongside Harriet and a team of fantastic volunteers and facilitators, then why not join one of our volunteer placements on this project next year? Just 'Enquire or Book Now' via our website page! Alternatively, if you would like any more information, please don't hesitate to contact us via email ([email protected]) or phone (+44(0)208 885 4987). We hope to hear from you soon! Have a great weekend everyone - TGP Team.

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