Matang Wildlife Centre is a unique wildlife rescue project, as it aims to rescue any and all protected wildlife in Sarawak, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. The centre is owned by the Sarawak Government and managed by Sarawak Forestry Corporation. Rehabilitation of the iconic Orangutan is one of the the centre’s activities, but there are other animals such as small primates, big cats and sun bears, usually rescued from captivity and the illegal pet trade. Orangutan Project is a Malaysian conservation organisation working in partnership with SFC and they have committed to helping this centre in terms of providing food, building infrastructure, assisting with releases, commissioning research where required, providing expert consultation and assisting with the daily management requirements.
Matang’s original mandate was to be a rehabilitation centre, but it is actually almost impossible to successfully release to the wild any animal that has been kept in captivity, even for a short time, and most animals that end up at Matang do so as a consequence of illegal pet trade. Therefore, it performs much more of a sanctuary role for the majority of animals that arrive. There are ongoing attempts to release animals. A local team has been trained and investment made in the technology to collar any animal that is put back in the jungle.Recently, two orangutan have been released to semi-wild in Kubah National Park and a group of 6 orangutan under the ages of 8 spend almost every day in the park for training, but stay at the centre at night.
There is also a volunteering program at the centre to assist with the day to day animal management, and other projects. As an organisation, Orangutan Project strives to create sustainable, alternative and significant revenue streams to fund conservation and animal welfare work. Running a volunteer project at Matang provides the finance to care for the animals there, buy the food, employ staff, build new enclosures and improve/maintain existing infrastructure. The team’s conservation efforts in Sarawak are focused on the areas that are still ‘wild’ and that have wild orangutan holding on, rather than expecting a rescue centre like Matang to truly achieve conservation. Nonetheless, Matang strives to uphold best conservation practices and applies a No Contact policy: to give rescued orang-utan the best chance of rehabilitation, they need to remain as far removed from people as possible. Having these animals exposed to mass market tourism and countless volunteers only serves to decrease their chance of returning once again to life in the trees. We believe that volunteer projects with a stated mission to help these endangered animals should do just that, and not simply provide photo opportunities for Western visitors. With that in mind, volunteers will always be contributing to the progression of this centre, and this may not necessarily be tailored towards what the volunteer may most enjoy.If it has always been your dream to hold a baby orang-utan, this is not the project for you. In saying that, participants to date have found this project incredibly worthwhile and enjoyable.
Learn more about the amazing Matang experience, as told by Ben Fogle upon his visit there