An Update From The Great Orangutan Project - What Will You Be Helping With?

An Update From The Great Orangutan Project - What Will You Be Helping With?

Posted by Michael Starbuck on Oct 25, 2017

We have received an update from the in country team over at The Great Orangutan Project and it’s an exciting one. Volunteers have made huge strides this year helping to not only care for the orangutans, but also making a difference to the lives of the sun bears at the centre too!

There are plenty of exciting projects coming up for future volunteers too, but we will let Bronwyn from the in-country team take it from here!

What have volunteers been helping with recently?


Volunteers Working in Borneo

The big project over the last year and a half has been building two new sets of night-dens for sun bears and subdividing an existing enclosure. This was a massive undertaking and volunteers have been hugely helpful with this project.

Volunteers building bear enclosure

Every volunteer over the last two years has done something to contribute to this project such as; mix cement, carry bricks to the site, dig foundations, painted walls, painted steel and built climbing structures, swimming pools and shade structures for the bears. Everyone’s efforts came together recently as we saw the completion of this massive project and bears were able to move into their lovely new accommodation so that has been a fantastic win!

What is coming up for the volunteers in the near future?


Volunteer working on a bear enclosure in Borneo

Of course enrichment for the animals and maintenance of the centre are always top priorities but project wise we will now be directing our focus towards helping the builders finish an enclosure for the macaques at the centre. This will initially involve a lot of cement mixing and moving the materials to the work-site. However, we are now coming into rainy season so the construction projects usually slow down a bit at this time of year as a lot of the projects can’t be done safely or successfully in heavy rain. This is a great time of year to focus on enrichment; to not only produce a lot of single use enrichment for the animals but to build new hammocks, climbing structures and swings and so on.

Are there any animal updates we should know about too?

Bunyau the orangutan has well and truly become the class clown!


Bunyau and Doc The Young Orangutans

Bunyau is the youngest male orangutan at the centre and at the moment life couldn’t be better for him as every other orangutan he meets showers him with their affections! He lives with three adult females (Catherine, Doris and Tingsan) and two other young males (Simmanggang and Doc). The girls dote on him, Doris, who is well known for not sharing anything with anyone ever, shares her enrichment with Bunyau (sometimes). Meanwhile Doc and Simmanggang are very happy to entertain Bunyau and he usually bounces around between them, tiring them both out with his endless energy and constant initiation of play-fights.


Bunyau and Doc the orangutans playing

Bunyau clearly thinks he’s very subtle and stealthy but when he is in the mood for playing he adopts an extremely obvious hunched posture and goofily swaggers over to his desired playmate. The girls are usually aware of the clumsy little rascal approaching them well before he has the opportunity to slap them (this seems to be how orangutans initiate play. However, this gesture is not always met with delight from the recipient). Tingsan in particular loves nothing more than to use Bunyau’s playful advances as opportunities to engage in games of chase and they can spend up to and hour chasing each other playfully around their spacious enclosure.


Baby orangutans playing together in Borneo

This little guy has loads of personality and its lovely to observe the joy he brings to this group, he has really helped pull the other personalities in this group together and they now all coexist very happily.

Karmele, Winnie and Ben the sun bears are loving their new enclosure!


Winnie the sun bear

These three young male sun bears were recently released into the new enclosure that we built for them. They are absolutely loving being outside. The first two days Winnie snuck back into his night den for his dinner after everyone had left because there were way too many exciting things to sniff and explore outside to even think about coming in for dinner at the usual time.


Winnie The Borneo Sun Bear

Seeing these boys go outside was just beautiful, so much hard work has gone into improving their quality of life and watching their reactions was lovely. Karmele was very excited to climb on all the new structures in their enclosure and Winnie spent his time stealthily prowling around in the grassy areas and making little nests among the shrubs. Ben on the other hand just got extremely playful and him and Winnie chased and wrestled in the grass for most of the first afternoon that they went outside.

There is never a dull moment at The Great Orangutan Project, so why not book and become the next orangutan volunteer!

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