"I've had to swap the orangutans for my dog!" - Jessie has returned home to Australia!

"I've had to swap the orangutans for my dog!" - Jessie has returned home to Australia!

Posted by Connor Whelan on 11th Jun 2017

Our competition winner Jessie has been back in her native Australia now for a couple of weeks and she is slowly finding her feet after being immersed in the world of Orangutans for just under a month! We thought this would be the perfect time to have a catch up with her, so let’s see what Jessie thought of her time at Samboja.

You’ve been back in Australia for a couple of weeks or so now, so just how much are you missing the orang-utans and the project?

Orangutan Enrichment in Borneo

It’s been two weeks that I’ve had to go without seeing a single orang-utan, and I think that’s 2 weeks too many! My family’s dog is having to fulfil my orang-utan needs, but he’s not that good at swinging from tress. Waking up to the sound of cars instead of orang-utan mating calls just isn’t the same!

How did it feel when you left the project knowing that your enrichment idea would be used to improve the orangutan’s lives for years to come?

Orangutan Enrichment

Phenomenal! To know my idea will genuinely continue to improve their lives is such an incredible feeling. I have fallen so madly in love with each and every one of the orang-utans at Samboja, so to know my invention will continue to impact their lives, it’s amazing.

Taking your own enrichment aside, what was your favourite activity on the project?

My favourite activity would have to have been water enrichment. Playing with the water with the orang-utans was so hilarious! Each orang-utan had their own technique for how they liked to be hosed down with the water, and they would really get into it! Dodo, for instance, liked to start with his kneecaps and work up to the rest of his body, whereas with Pongi, he preferred it if you started with his mouth and then he’d move up to the top of his head. Water enrichment really brought out the playful side in each of the orang-utans!

What was your standout moment from your month at Samboja?

Orangutan Looking

A moment that really comes to mind was the deep connection I shared with one of the beautiful female orang-utans. We had finished our morning activities and we were just getting a quick rest before moving on, when I ended up going over to near where an orang-utan was sitting. I stood with her for a few minutes and we just shared such a deep connection, looking into each other’s eyes, and I remember feeling as if I was looking at a person. You can just feel how intelligent and sentient these apes are, and I really experienced that in this moment. It was an incredible memory to take with me.

Will you be heading back to Samboja in the future or maybe even a new volunteering project?

Ab-so-lute-ly. All of my friends have been fawning over the photos of my time at Samboja, and so I think I might have a crew to bring along with me next time! I had such a great experience with the staff and other volunteers on this program, and so I would definitely consider joining one of The Great Projects’ other projects - I have my eye on the whale shark program… do whale sharks like ice block enrichment?

Why should other people volunteer with the orangutans?

Orangutan Volunteers Are Needed

Orang-utans are critically endangered and are in desperate need of our help, now more than ever. Human impact is the leading threat to their survival, and we need to be building a world impassioned to ensure their future protection and conservation. Volunteering with the orang-utans at Samboja gives you the opportunity to actively work towards ensuring a future for these incredible apes.

What are your top tips for travelling?

Travel insurance! I had an unfortunate incident whereby I fell into the moat, with both my phone and camera on me, and so it’s fair to say I am very, very glad I had taken out travel insurance before coming! My other big tip is to be as open and sociable as possible - you will meet so many brilliant people along the way, and those people will determine the outcome of your experience. Take this opportunity to make friends from all over the world!

Will you be getting involved in animal conservation in any other ways now you’ve returned?

Definitely; it’d be impossible to come back and not remain driven to continue supporting these amazing animals in any way I can. I’m really inspired to share the message of the plight of the orang-utans and other endangered animals, and so I’m hoping to create work that encourages others to support the cause.

Why do people need to get out and experience the world through travel?

Travelling around the world

Travel allows you to not only see the world in a whole new light, but to really grow your own perspective on how you perceive the world. You gain insight and understanding that you are only able to access through going somewhere and seeing it for yourself first-hand. It allows you to meet people from all over the world with entirely different life-experiences than yourself, which you can learn and grow so much from. Experiencing the world through travel is how we grow.

If you’ve been inspired by Jessie’s account of her time at the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Sanctuary then why not find your dream volunteering trip right here!


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