Volunteer at International Animal Rescue's orangutan project, working towards the rehabilitation of these great apes.
Located in the small town of Ketapang, West Kalimantan, International Animal Rescue’s orangutan sanctuary exists to rescue, rehabilitate, and release as many of Indonesia’s great apes as possible: since the centre opened its doors in 2010, an incredible 170 orangutans have been rescued, with a further 40 being released. It is these tireless efforts which have put the centre on the map, earning IAR their position as a conservation authority.
Due to the development of palm oil plantations in the area destroying much of Borneo’s rainforest, countless animals have been left vulnerable and without homes. This, in turn, puts the species as a whole at serious risk, and the project needs your help to continue the exemplary work that they have achieved thus far.
By becoming an orangutan volunteer, you will have the opportunity to become a part of IAR's story, providing support across an array of important activities such as enrichment, maintenance, and construction. Your hard work could truly make a difference to the conservation of Borneo's orangutans, providing IAR with the ability to continue taking in, rehabilitating, and releasing great apes for as long as their efforts are needed. You can learn more about the cause by watching this interview with Alan Knight.
Words from Alan Knight OBE, CEO of International Animal Rescue:
‘I am delighted that we will be working closely with the team at The Great Projects and look forward to The Great Projects' volunteers helping us build a future for orangutans in Ketapang, West Kalimantan through their award winning volunteer programme.’
This programme is designed to support International Animal Rescue by providing help at their orangutan rehabilitation centre in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, by way of the activities listed below. Please note that these activities are not guaranteed, and that your time at the centre may vary from what is described below.
Please note itineraries are subject to change and what follows is only a rough guideline.
During the 11 years that the IAR Ketapang centre been running, there have been a number of successes alongside a series of difficulties which have impacted the project. While the project has managed to expand dramatically in size (a 20% increase of land was obtained in 2017 alone), the necessity for more islands and better facilities has become urgent due to the masses of orangutans left homeless as a result of 2015’s wildfires. Despite these difficulties, however, the sanctuary have managed to rescue 170 orangutans since opening their doors, releasing a further 40 orangutans as part of their release programme. It is this programme which the project is keen to focus on, as they are systematically reintroducing the animals to the wild.
Of course, the project’s mission does not end there. They are actively encouraging volunteers to get involved with reforestation activities in the area, working in tandem with the local communities to benefit the areas around their homes. Finally, the project is in the process of building an education centre which will eventually be used to host lectures and house students, enabling visitors to the centre to learn more about the importance of conservation and how they can make a difference. Activities such as this one simply would not be attainable without the help of volunteers: without time spent working at the project site on the construction and maintenance of enclosures, climbing structures and more, IAR would find it much more difficult to focus their attention on helping the orangutans, either in the immediate future (via rescue, rehabilitation and release) and the distant future by way of educating locals, and teaching them how to live in harmony with the rainforest and its inhabitants.
The IAR Orangutan Project had an extremely busy, but extremely successful January! They released multiple animals, treated those out in the field and more! Check out just what they've been up to during their endeavours to aid wildlife conservation in Borneo, and to see how you can help this orangutan conservation project!
From orangutan rescue to environmental disasters, 2017 has been fraught with heartwrenching stories about nature. Read on to learn about some of the stories from our own projects, as well as those from elsewhere around the globe.
Throughout the duration of the project, you will be accommodated in a rented property located around 30 minutes’ drive from the orangutan centre. The house will be shared with your fellow volunteers, meaning that the kitchen and bathrooms are also shared. Bathrooms are comprised of the traditional drop-toilets, and you will have basic washing amenities in the form of a container of cold water and a scoop to pour the water over yourself. While these facilities are basic, they are practical, and the cold water of the washing facilities will come as a bit of a relief in the humid atmosphere! Each volunteer will have their own bedroom equipped with linens and pillows, but we do recommend that you bring your own towel for use when freshening up. There is WiFi in the house, but power cuts do happen so be sure to bring a range of entertainment with you!
You will be provided with two meals per day, Monday to Saturday. Please note that breakfast will be at your own cost, but there are shops in the nearby towns for you to pick up essentials such as cereals and bread. Lunch and dinner are pre-prepared for you by the project staff and can be tailored to your needs – please download your free project guide to learn more about this! On Sundays, no food will be prepared for you by the project staff, so we recommend paying a visit to one of the great restaurants in town and getting a taste of the local culture!
Most of your work here will involve physical labour, so we ask that all volunteers have a relatively high level of fitness. You will be on your feet a lot during your time here, and temperatures are very hot and humid, so please make sure that you stay well-hydrated and are aware of the amount of effort expected from you! A positive mental attitude is key, as is your ability to work well as part of a team.
The vaccinations you require will depend on your medical history. We recommend that you consult your GP regarding your own immunisation needs. In conjunction with this, we would also recommend that you check Fit for Travel’s website. The Great Projects are not qualified to provide you with medical advice.
We are often asked whether or not volunteers will have the chance to touch or play with the orangutans whilst on this project. Our answer to this question is, and will always be no, and this is for good reason. Orangutans are highly susceptible to human diseases and something as minor as the common cold can prove fatal to these Great Apes. In addition to this, an environment of constant change, with new volunteers going to the project every four weeks and being in contact with the orangutans would be very detrimental to the orangutans' well-being. With no consistency in their lives, behavioural problems arise. They also have a tendency to begin to trust humans which could be damaging should they be released back into the wild, as they will become easy targets for poachers. Finally, an orangutan is around 7 times stronger than an adult male human, so a 'no contact' policy is just as crucial for your well-being as orangutan welfare. That is not to say that you will have no interaction with the orangutans; it simply means that you will have no direct contact with them. You will still observe them on a daily basis and see how your contribution to their husbandry and enrichment makes a real difference in these great apes' lives. For more information please view our article on hands-on contact with orangutans here.
Since this project is based at a rehabilitation sanctuary, you can expect to see orangutans year-round. Weather may play a role in booking your preferred date, but please note that temperatures are relatively consistent and that it can rain all year round. The distinct ‘rainy season’ falls between November and January, but it is important to remember that the orangutans need year-round care, no matter what the weather.
You will need to arrive into Ketapang Airport on the start date of your project between 7am and 5pm. Here, a project representative will meet you in the arrivals hall before transferring you to the volunteer house. Please ensure that your flights are booked during the times stated, as there is a ‘welcome dinner’ in the evening which you do not want to miss! The easiest way to get to Ketapang is travelling via Jakarta (with a change over in Pontianak).
If you would like help booking your flights, please visit our flight page and fill out the form. A member of our team will get back in touch as soon as possible with a suitable quote.
Your passport must be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Indonesia. Entry to Indonesia will be refused and airlines may not carry passengers holding passports with less than six months validity. You are required to retain your arrival card for presentation to immigration upon your departure.
In order to join this project, you will need a tourist visa. You will be able to get one of these on arrival into the country of Indonesia, but please note that you may have to pay for this on arrival at Ketapang Airport. Visas are of the volunteer's own responsibility.
If you plan to stay longer than 30 days in Indonesia, you will need to arrange a 60-day tourist visa in advance. The cost for the 60-day visa can vary depending on which Indonesian embassy you are applying through.
The currency in Indonesia is the Indonesian Rupiah. 1 IDR is approximately 0.00006 GBP, 0.00009 USD and 0.00007 EUR. Please check www.xe.com for live exchange rates.
Would like to make a special mention for the volunteer facilitator Meggie who was fantastic. Made sure we had everything, really good fun and dedicated to her work.
Chris Allen, 2018
Favourite Moment: Seeing the baby orang-utans in the jungle. We were lucky to see how the baby orang-utans use the enrichment packages that we made. We had a very well rounded trip. We got to do a range of different activities. We felt that we had helped the project with our work. The facilitator Meggie was fantastic. She was enthusiastic, a great motivator, terrific singer and all round wonderful person. Second only to the orang-utans, she would be my favourite memory.
Genevieve D'Silva, 2018
I'll never forget visiting the baby school on our last day and watching the little ones cover themselves in sawdust and enjoy the enrichment we had made them.
Laura Smith, 2018
It was amazing meeting the entire team and working alongside such dedicated people, whilst having the orangutans watching us whilst we worked!
Rebecca Barton, 2017
Interacting with the Orangutans while repairing the boardwalk or in Kindergarten and baby school doing enrichment activities was incredible, but what made the whole experience was seeing a small part of the real Indonesia - there were always smiling faces waving at us!
Ben Stephenson, 2017
It is impossible to single out only one memorable moment. The entire experience will definitely stay with me forever. I really hope to return someday!
Nadine Thompson , 2017
I loved seeing the baby orangutans in school and in the kindergarten! I would really like to thank my facilitators. Hery and Matt are the best team!
Sára Veszprémi, 2017
Seeing the babies in baby school and kindergarten was incredible. Matt and Heri are the best facilitators! Everyone that I met during my stay was incredible.
Nicole Tacconi, 2017
At 3pm every day the babies would trundle past in their wheelbarrows. The curiosity, togetherness and all round sweetness was an absolute joy to behold. My heart would sing with emotion.
Benjamin Smith, 2017