Return from Samboja Lestari Orangutan Sanctuary

Return from Samboja Lestari Orangutan Sanctuary

Posted by Sam Hopkins on 12th Sep 2014

The first of our 'Samboja Lestari Orangutan Volunteer' projects has just been completed, and by all accounts from the reviews we have received it was a great success! This month for our feature of the month we have been fortunate enough to talk to our lovely Project Developer and Leader Harriet. Sam from our team was able to ask her a few questions about the project itself and the work done by volunteers. This follows below (along with some incredible photographs!):

Could you tell us a little bit more about why Samboja Lestari is a great place to develop one of our newest projects?

Samboja has such a large number of rescued orangutans at the centre and very limited resources. The priority is of course release; however it is also integral to offer enrichment to the orangutans that they will not be able to be released for some time. Samboja does have an enrichment team, but with a good number of volunteers we are able to make a considerable difference with the enrichment prep. The volunteers can create large amounts of enrichment items that can be stored, and they also offer a level of creativity to the process. The orangutans had types of enrichment this August that they had never seen before and you could really see a difference in their behaviour upon receiving it.

What work did you need to develop before you got here?

When putting together an itinerary, I always think it's incredibly important to add variation and to have an activity everyday (anyone who has been on a project with me before knows I don't do "free days") of course every activity is optional but its important to me that the volunteers get to do as much as possible during their time on a project. Part of developing this project was trying out some of the excursions (I wasn't complaining haha) that I could offer the volunteers just to vary their days a little, it was also important for me to find key aspects of the project that the volunteers really could make a difference in. Of course by the time the volunteers arrived I had a fairly rigid day to day hour by hour itinerary for the volunteers to follow….but the animals usually have other ideas! It's very important to be flexible when working on a project of this kind.

What makes this particular project 'different' to the other orangutan projects we run? What are the end goals of the project?

All our projects are different in their own unique way. Having spent time on both of our orangutan projects I would say that the primary difference is the sheer numbers of orangutans at the centre. Even in the month and a half that I was there the project still rescued more baby orangutans. Unlike Ketapang we are not starting from a clean slate, we are hoping to help a project that has been running for some time with limited funds.

How did the volunteers react to the work and what did they all make of it?

I was incredibly lucky to have a group of volunteers that really wanted to get their hands dirty. They were all so passionate that they had come to help and would do just about anything that was thrown at them, be it jump in neck deep water to clear weeds or dig foundations for climbing frame and generally just being covered in porridge and other enrichment items during the duration of their stay.

What was your favourite/least favourite part of the four + weeks here?

As always its incredibly hard to pick one favourite experience. I loved watching the orangutans being introduced to different methods of enrichment that had never experienced before. The facility also has sunbears, one day I released a bag of cat fish into their pond for enrichment and that was really fun to watch. As I said before, I had a fantastic group of volunteers that I hope I stay in touch with. They managed to make any activity exciting - we couldn't even dig one hole without having a fairly lengthy mud fight! Now, my worst experience on the project…was probably hearing some of the stories about where these orangutans come from and what they have been through.

Where can you see Samboja developing within the future and how does the work of the volunteers help?

We hope to spend a lot more time working with BOS at the centre next year. When the first team left this August the staff took me aside and said that the volunteers had helped considerably with enrichment and other activities around the centre. Some tasks that should have taken 3 days we could do in 3 hours, and I think its important to free up as much time as possible for the staff so they have time to get on with the really important task of getting the orangutans back into the wild.

Wow - sounds and looks like it was a pretty amazing four weeks - thanks Harriet! Keep your eyes peeled next week on our website and social media sites for some accompanying videos!

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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