Orangutan Enrichment at Samboja Lestari Rescue Centre

Orangutan Enrichment at Samboja Lestari Rescue Centre

Posted by Connor Whelan on 27th Aug 2015

Animal welfare is of the utmost importance at the Samboja Lestari Rescue Centre, where around 250 Orangutans are homed throughout their rehabilitation. Both mental and physical stimulation are required to ensure that boredom does not take hold. This is where enrichment comes in.

Enrichment is exactly what it sounds like. It is the act of creating an environment which keeps the Orangutans minds and bodies active and busy, and therefore enriches their lives. Orangutan enrichment plays a large part in the lives of the volunteers who visit the project, as creating enrichment tools for the Orangutans is the predominant activity on the trip.

At the project site, volunteers have the chance to make a variety of enrichment tools, and even have the chance to get creative and make their own if they are deemed suitable for the Orangutans! Detailed below is a list of the most commonly used enrichment tools and how they keep the Orangutans busy! Read on to find out one of the ways you would be helping if you visited Samboja Lestari.


Bamboo is an ideal tool to use in Orangutan enrichment as it is 100% natural, biodegradable and grows quickly and in abundance at the project site. The hollow inside of a shoot of bamboo is the perfect place to stuff fruit and nuts, along with banana leaves to ensure it all stays in place, and this creates a more stimulating way for the Orangutans to find their food. The shape and size (when they are cut down!) of a bamboo shoot is a very good substitute for a termite mound, which is occasionally a source of food for the Orangutans in the wild. In the wild the Orangutans would use their fingers and other tools such as sticks and rocks to prise all of the termites out of the mound, and they can replicate this natural behaviour with the bamboo and fruit!

Ice Blocks

Whilst they may sound simple, ice blocks are a great source of enrichment for the Orangutans. They stimulate the senses of sight, smell, taste and touch and are very easy to make. Various fruits are put into water, which is then put into plastic bags and they are left to freeze. Once this is done, the bags are presented to the Orangutans who then have fun discovering the best method to get the fruit out of its icy enclosure!


In a similar vein to the bamboo, bottles are filled with fruit and other treats that the Orangutans enjoy, and then sticks and leaves are added to help the Orangutans. Using the sticks and leaves, the Great Apes have to work out how to remove the treats from inside the bottle.


Something a bit more outside the box, using magazines as enrichment is a great example of what volunteers and staff members can come up with when they put their creativity to the test. Pages of a magazine are stuck together with jam and honey to present a new, slightly more out of the ordinary experience for the Orangutans. Once the Orangutans figure out how to separate the pages they have the chance to enjoy their sweet treat!

Cardboard Boxes

This one is as simple as it sounds! Treats and other stimulating tools are put into sealed boxes which are then given to the Orangutans. Once they have figured out how to open them, they get their just rewards for all of their hard work.

Environmental Enrichment

A different type of enrichment to the objects discussed above is environmental enrichment. This involves putting structures of varying complexity into the Orangutan enclosures so that they can interact with them. Environmental enrichment can come in the form of tyre swings, hammocks and anything else those at the centre can come up with!

Enrichment is crucial for the Orangutans and that is the reason as to why it plays such a large role in the volunteers time at Samboja. Staff at the centre are dedicated to ensuring that whilst the wild of the Bornean jungle can never be replicated fully, that the Orangutans living at the centre still have all of the skills required to survive and flourish if released back into the wild. Using enrichment to keep the minds of the Orangutans as sharp as possible is the best way to do just that. With around 250 Orangutans needing enrichment twice a day, it is a monumental task, and as a result the volunteers at the centre play a crucial role in helping provide much-needed assistance. Without them the Orangutans would not get the levels of enrichment they need, so why not go and test out your enrichment ideas in Borneo now!

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