What Volunteering at The Great Orangutan Project Actually Involves

What Volunteering at The Great Orangutan Project Actually Involves

Posted by Demi Georgiou on Sep 1, 2018

If you have volunteered on a project before and are what we like to call an ‘experienced traveller’, this article will contain information you may already be aware of, however, if you are a newbie to volunteering abroad and would like to find out a little more about what you can expect on your trip to The Great Orangutan Project (including daily activities, enrichment and construction work) then please, read on! 

So, you’ve found yourself here because you have a real passion and a love for wildlife – perhaps orangutans in particular – and have chosen to embark on an incredible, life-changing experience as a volunteer at The Great Orangutan Project, but you are unsure what this kind of project really involves and what will be required of you. Don’t worry though, as we’ve got you covered! We have broken it down into short, digestible chunks, so you can go away feeling happy and excited to begin your amazing journey! 

Slow Loris The Great Orangutan Project

What it means to volunteer on The Great Orangutan Project

For those of you who have never had the opportunity to volunteer abroad, volunteering on The Great Orangutan Project is a chance for you to holiday differently whilst working alongside like-minded people (staff members and other volunteers too!). Together, you will aid conservation for the many animals at the sanctuary including the critically endangered orangutan. As the project site is located at the Matang Wildlife Centre, you can expect to come across an array of remarkable species! 

As a volunteer, you are required to support the staff and team at the centre by assisting where-ever possible. This includes: providing animals with enrichment; general maintenance on the project site; organically farming food for the animals to eat; husbandry (which basically means cleaning and food prepping!) for orangutans, sun bears, slow loris', and many other animals from the Bornean jungle; and carrying out various construction tasks. 

This type of work is essential in the daily running of the wildlife sanctuary, and although it may seem tough, exhausting, and occasionally messy, your time spent as a volunteer will allow you witness first hand that your contribution is valuable not only to the animal residents but is also of great help to the dedicated staff on-site – making it all worthwhile, giving you a real sense of achievement and a rewarding feeling at the end of it! 

Also, a donation is included in the cost of your placement - roughly a third of the cost of your trip! – which goes towards funding sanctuary materials and supplies, and also goes towards veterinary care. So, your money really does go further here…

Volunteer Construction Work The Great Orangutan Project

What to expect – Activities, Enrichment, Construction and more…

As we mentioned briefly above, you can expect to get involved with a variety of activities and tasks, all of which would be carried out on a daily basis. Below is a brief explanation of some of the most vital tasks you'll be involved in during your time on the project!

Enrichment is a major part of The Great Orangutan Project as it involves creating stimulating activities and environments for the animals here. It is an important requirement for volunteers because it helps to encourage and promote natural behaviours of wildlife and while enrichment enhances the potential for animals to be released - some may sadly never have the possibility of future release – it still aims to improve the lives of the animals currently residing at the sanctuary. There are a variety of different enrichment tasks that you could be involved with, including the use of essential oils which aim to reintroduce familiar smells for the orangutans and animals. You might even find the use of puzzles and bubbles to be a novel form of enrichment! To find out more about enrichment for the orangutans and animals at The Great Orangutan Project, read the blog written by the project coordinator herself and learn why enrichment is so significant to these animals. 

Aside from enrichment tasks, another key aspect is helping with general maintenance and construction tasks on the project site. In the steamy climate of Borneo, certain tasks may arise faster than usual. The heat tends to play havoc on platforms and building structures, wearing them away quicker than most – therefore requiring the much-needed assistance of you wonderful volunteers. The general maintenance duties you could be involved with are: painting; cleaning; varnishing; and gardening. Elsewhere, construction-based work could mean you will be fixing and repairing enclosures, as well as constructing feeding platforms in the forest and aviaries. So, don’t hang about…get stuck in! There is always work to be done.

Baby Orangutan Eating At The Great Orangutan Project

In addition to enrichment and maintenance, you will also be involved with husbandry for the animals. From sun bears, orangutans and binturongs to macaques – you’ll be assisting them all! Husbandry is equally important work, however, as it means you will be preparing food for the animal residents as well as cleaning the cages and enclosures. Yes, it may be a messy job, but someone’s got to do it!

Without the added help of volunteers, the in-country team and staff at the sanctuary would not be able to continue doing their job of aiding wildlife conservation - which is why the staff appreciate the additional help. Thankfully, over recent years, volunteers have been able to assist the team in creating an organic farm with the aim to grow fresh food for the animals.  Although this is not a guaranteed part of the itinerary for you, tending to the farm may still be a small occasional task to carry out, as and when required. 

Whilst at the project, you will be working 5 days a week and given two consecutive days off (these days will likely fall at the weekend – yay!) to spend free-time and carry out any additional activities you wish to pursue, or maybe you just want to explore beautiful Borneo. Whatever it is, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Take a look here to find out what else you can get up to during your free time at The Great Orangutan Project. 

Baby Orangutan Hanging From Tree The Great Orangutan Project

The Animals at The Great Orangutan Project

Regardless of the fact that ‘orangutan’ is stated in the project name, this iconic animal is not the only species you will come across during your time here. The varied wildlife at the sanctuary range from sun bears and binturongs to macaques and possibly even a clouded leopard! Would you like to get to know the animals at the sanctuary a little better? Check out the ‘meet the animals’ blog here and read the stories behind how each of them ended up at the sanctuary. 


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