Samboja Lestari 2016 Review - Take A Look At What The Volunteers Have Achieved At The Orangutan Sanctuary In Borneo!

Samboja Lestari 2016 Review - Take A Look At What The Volunteers Have Achieved At The Orangutan Sanctuary In Borneo!

Posted by Connor Whelan on Nov 3, 2016

This year has seen some incredible progress being made at the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Centre in Borneo. Alongside the full time staff at the project, The Great Projects’ volunteers have been working extremely hard to help improve the lives of the Orangutans that have found refuge at the sanctuary, and we wanted to bring you all an update on exactly what has gone on throughout the year!

That is why we asked our volunteer coordinator at Samboja, Kate, to fill us in on the goings on of 2016. You can see just how much of a difference the volunteers have made here, so now we are going to hand things over to Kate to tell you how this year went!


With everyone raring to go for the fresh start to the project year, our first job was working on the special care unit for sick orangutans by creating a jungle gym for them to use! We did this by installing ropes, hammocks, swings, and general climbing apparatus, as you can never be too sure what the orangutans will prefer on the day!

We also helped the reforestation team by replanting trees in an area which was hit by the horrific forest fires fire last year. We planted over 300 trees this month which was not bad going at all! At the sunbears enclosure, the volunteers made hammocks and installed water baths in newly built temporary cages for the sunbears so they could live in greater comfort than before.


Our volunteers continued work on the orangutan special care unit which was started last month, but they also started work on clearing the area around a 4 hectare enclosure for the sunbears. This needed to be done so that improvements could be made and the bears could have a shiny new place to call home!

Another 350 trees were planted in April as well, and this signalled that the replanting of the forest had well and truly begun. In between our other jobs we were able to resume work on the orangutan islands that had been started the previous year. These islands are currently uninhabited and we plan to put at least 15 orangutans back on them once they are refurbished and ready. To get things started, we began with small projects like hammock making and installing the fun bits that the orangutans will eventually use to keep stimulated! We obviously had to test them out as well…


Orangutan Volunteering

It was full steam ahead this month, and May quickly became dedicated to the completion of the Special Care unit and making sure that it was ready for the orangutans to enter. By this point of the year we had also got quite far through our efforts to clear all around the fence of the sun bear enclosure. There really is no rest for the wicked here at Samboja!

Orangutan shelter

The month came to an end with 5 orangutans being released to the primary forest. This is always a highlight for any volunteers lucky enough to be at the project when a release takes place, so May was not a bad month at all!


The staff at Samboja take June off to rest, recover, and continue caring for the orangutan before preparing for a new batch of volunteers in the second half of the year!



After a short break to recharge our batteries and with the special care unit finally finished, we were able to crack on with our island work. First things first we returned to island 1 where two platforms had been built last year and started to work on climbing structures for these. We need an almost indestructible wood like ironwood otherwise the orangutans would quickly destroy all of our hard work, however, luckily for us we have lots of this type of wood buried in our forest at Samboja from deforestation many years ago. These preserved poles are perfect for installing upright on the islands, but the only problem is getting them from the forest to the islands as this is easier said than done! Calling Ironwood heavy is an understatement, but luckily we had a group of 12 volunteers eager to help and got the job done. Once taken out of the woods, all that was left for us to do was to cement the poles into the ground. This month we installed 9 poles of ironwood and also managed to put up new barrels and hammocks for the orangutans to sleep in. Again, in the interest of thoroughness, we tried them out…

Tree Planting

In July we even went the extra step and worked in the tree nursery collecting cutting for new trees for more new islands!


Orangutan HAmmock

With island 1 almost done we moved straight to island 2 to start clearing it up to ensure that it was ready for the next platform to be placed. We dug our foundations for the monster platform, and dug deep holes for ironwood poles. Oh, and we also had to go back for more ironwood! After collecting a lot of the wood, and with the volunteers and myself all feeling like we had been hitting the gym, we decided to put a few extra poles on island 1 and also on island 2.

Tree cutting

The work wasn’t quite finished yet though, as we also managed to plant an additional 250 trees and make more process at the Sunbear enclosure!


September was given the unofficial title of “monster platform month”, for good reason. It was time to build another platform for one of the islands, but this one was on a much larger scale! Now had it been a normal platform it would have been finished already, but with it being double the size of the last platforms we built, it was only half way done! We did not let “monster platform” get the better of us though, and with everyone pitching in we got a lot more done!

Volunteers working

Later in the month we collected and installed more ironwood along with barrels and a triangle hammock made by the volunteers. The islands were really beginning to take shape now! September ended with a spot of gardening, as after planting so many trees throughout the year, it was time to go back and check how they were getting on and to do any necessary trimming and pruning. It isn’t all lifting heavy things here you know!


Orangutan Platform

We were on the last stretch now but it was also the most labour intensive by far! With just four weeks to go of the project for 2016, we had finished some of our monster platform (island 2), and had only dug the foundations for our other island (island 0.) We really wanted them both finished by the end of the month so the race was on. Somehow with amazing dedication from our local staff working on the technical side, and an incredible amount of enthusiasm from our volunteers we managed to finish both platforms! Not only that, but we installed 7 ironwood poles and two triangle hammocks on island 0, and still even had time to clean up after ourselves. We also had a one last go at finishing the fence for the sun bears, and whilst we did not quite complete the whole perimeter, we almost made it all the way around. The permanent workers here have now already begun to fix the fence thanks to the machete work from the volunteers, and the sun bears should be moving into their new home sooner rather than later!

October was a busy month but by the end of it, it was a job well done for all involved!


I am already looking forward to seeing what the volunteers can help us to achieve next year, and as the work never ends here at Samboja, it is certainly a case of the more the merrier!

As you can see, an awful lot was achieved at Samboja last year! All of the work done at the sanctuary is done with the aim of creating a better life for the animals that are there, but none of it would be possible without the help of volunteers. There is going to be even more that needs to be completed in 2017, so if you would like to become an Orangutan Volunteer and be part of the 2017 chapter of the Samboja story, then click here to find out more about this amazing project.

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Amanda's Profile Picture
Amanda commented 1 year ago
Hi I am so proud of myself that I was able to make a difference. I was there in july. Enjoy ed every moment. Well done kate.
Francis's Profile Picture
Francis commented 1 year ago
Yay Kate! Love from the Dumonts.

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