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Experience Borneo as a Orangutan Rescue Volunteer

orangutan rescueBecome a volunteer at the award-winning orangutan project at Matang Wildlife Rescue Centre in Sarawak on Borneo Island. The centre is set against the backdrop of the magnificent Kubah National Park, but this rainforest and surrounding areas are constantly under threat of deforestation and fires. The additional pressure from the illegal wildlife trade means that many wildlife species are endangered, including the iconic Borneon orangutan.

Hands-on work to improve the lives of the animals

The centre serves as a sanctuary for orangutans which have been injured, orphaned or rescued from these multiple threats. Volunteers are therefore very welcome to support the staff in looking after these rescued animals. Be aware that the work is not a photo opportunity to pose with baby animals, but involves active labour and a hands on approach to assist with animal husbandry, construction projects and enrichment activities for the resident animals.




    From £ 1,280  or € 1,443* 

    or RM 7,400for 2 weeks

    • MINIMUM AGE: 18 and above
    • DURATION:  2 or 4 weeks
    • OPERATION: All year round 

    Project activities


    A major part of this project is creating enrichment. This is the process of providing the animals with stimulating environments, where they are provided with items and surroundings that encourage and promote natural behaviour. This will enhance the potential for release as well as improve the lives of the animals at the centre.


    Another big part of the work on this project is husbandry for the orangutans, sun bears, macaques, binturongs and other animals. This includes feeding the animals as well as cleaning the wildlife cages and enclosures, an essential part of any wildlife centre.


    Small construction tasks can also be part of this project as it is through these that the centre can continue to grow. The centre is then able to accept more animals and hope to be able to rehabilitate and release as many as possible. In the past, volunteers have been involved with the building of aviaries, gibbon cages, feeding platforms in the forest, boardwalks around the park and ranger stations in the national park.


    As you can imagine maintenance is an on-going task and so you may be needed to help with painting, cleaning, varnishing and gardening and there is always work to be done!

    Organic Farming

    Over the past few years volunteers have helped create an organic farm to grow food for the animals at the centre to enable it to become a more sustainable institution. The orangutan sanctuary is determined that the farm remain organic and though many people keep recommending a whole host of chemicals for keeping the weeds at bay, they continue to rely on the efforts of volunteers to keep it under control. The project staff feel it is definitely a realisable dream to have this and other orangutan centres organically grow all the food they need to keep their animals alive and healthy. Tending to the farm has, therefore, become a regular job for the volunteers.

    Free Time & Additional Activities

    The working week is Monday to Friday, giving you the weekends off. As you will have most likely travelled a long way to reach Borneo, we always suggest taking advantage of the weekends to explore the surrounding area – including Kubah National Park and Damai Beach, either by yourself or with your fellow volunteers. You can also look at visiting a long-house, meeting the Iban tribe, visiting nearby markets and social and interactive activities with locals and researchers. Interaction with the local communities is always encouraged so as to strengthen local relationships and continue to aid human animal conflict.

    Our itinerary starts from Kuching, but we can assist with adding transfers from other Malaysian destinations such as Kuala Lumpur or Kota Kinabalu.


    Day 1: Arrival in Kuching, Sarawak on Malaysian Borneo*
    You will be welcomed at Kuching airport by a team member, who will arrange a transfer to a local guesthouse. There you can meet fellow volunteers and join a welcome dinner, which will include a full briefing on the orangutan project by a member of the project team.

    Day 2: Transfer to Matang Wildlife Centre
    After breakfast you and the rest of your group will take a private transfer to the Matang Wildlife Centre Orangutan Sanctuary. Here, after settling in, you will meet the project staff and take a full tour of the centre.

    Day 3 – 13: Project work
    Now your project work will start and you will be working with all of the animals at the centre including the orangutans and sun bears.

    Day 14: Fond Farewell
    This will be your last day at the project so after a final morning of activities you will pack and transfer back to the Basaga Guesthouse for your final night’s stay and a farewell dinner in the evening with the project staff and the other volunteers you have gotten to know so well during your stay.

    Day 15: Departure from Kuching airport
    Depending on your departure flight time you may have time for a lie in or even to see Kuching one last time before you take a private transfer to Kuching Airport for your return flight or continue your independent travel plans.


    Graphic for Web


    5th and 19th of every month


    AVERAGE GROUP SIZE: 12 – 16 Volunteers

    Wildlife Rescue Volunteering


    4 Weeks
    RM 10,900

    Equivalent to:




    All prices are in Rm Malaysian Ringgit (MYR), so please use the currency converter to know the exact price in your own currency.


    • Return airport pickup
    • Accommodation
    • Food & Cooking Facilities
    • All project activities


    • Flight fares
    • Travel insurance
    • Private transfers
    • Visa costs
    • Food/activities not included in the project


    Graphic for Web


    Your accommodation will be at one of the comfortable communal chalets at the centre (see image). It has 2 or 3 bedrooms, a shared living area, kitchen, shower room and toilet. You wil also be able to chill on the cosy verandah.

    You will be housed with your partner, family  or friends, if you are travelling in a group. The rooms are on a twin-shared basis with a maximum of 4 volunteers to a chalet. You are welcome to bring your own mosquito net, but make sure it’s a double, so that it will fit either bed size (single or double). The bedrooms have fans to keep you cool at night.

    In Malaysia, it is not so common to have hot water supplied (on tap),  as it is generally very hot anyway. So the lukewarm shower will help to cool you down.


    The cooking facilities will be basic, but adequate: with a 2 ring burner gas hob, a fridge and freezer, a kettle and a toster. Malaysian cuisine does not include ovens or a microwave.

    You will be cooking your own meals and receive a food budget. This is normally Rm200 for 2 weeks or Rm400 for 4 weeks. You will get a lift to the local supermarket to buy groceries on a weekly basis.

    organic produce


    Graphic for Web

    This project promotes high ethical standards of animal husbandry

    A strict NO CONTACT policy is implemented at the centre. In contrast to some other rescue centres, where volunteers are able to hug orangutan babies. It’s understandable that volunteers want those ‘selfie’ moments. However, it’s not in the interest of the apes. So this centre sets an admirable example to raise standards. Concern for the rescued animals must be the priority.

    The reality is that close contact between humans and primates can be very harmful. There are 2 main risks:

    Zoonosis means passing disease between humans and animals

    Because great apes are genetically so similar to us, the risk of zoonosis is very real. In fact, some illnesses or infections are more damaging to apes than to humans. This applies even more in the case of baby orangutans. They have been orphaned at a young age, So, they have not yet built up enough immunity. Especially given that they have not been able to benefit from their mother’s milk. So they are particulary at risk.

    Furthermore, if primates have been exposed to zoonosis, then their chance of release into the wild are less. This is because international guidelines for rewilding consider such animals to be a risk to  healthy populations in the wild.

    Habituation to humans and related behaviour issues

    In normal circumstances, an orphaned child is provided with long-term consistent care. Cases where such orphanes are subjected by multiple carers for short durations is always considered bad for emotional development. Well, the same applies to ape orphanes. They also need consistent nurturing care. That is why the primary care-givers should be the long-term local staff.


    Importantly, primates should be allowed to develop their natural arboreal behaviour. This means their life up in the trees. Humans cannot teach this fundamental behaviour. So the animals need to be allowed to go into the forest as much as possible.

    Due to their high intelligence, great apes can easily imitate many human behaviours, such as brushing their teeth or smoking cigarettes. Again, this reduces the chance of such apes getting back to their natural life in the forest. So the main focus must remain to stimuate natural arboreal behaviour.

    For this reason, the centre encourages the highest husbandry standards. This includes responsible interaction and good quality enrichment.

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