Become 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.
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.
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.
* This itinerary starts from Kuching, but we can assist with adding transfers from other Malaysian destinations such as Kuala Lumpur or Kota Kinabalu.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
- START DATES FOR THIS PROJECT ARE:
The 5th and 19th of every month
- MINIMUM AGE FOR THIS PROJECT:
18 years and above
- AVERAGE GROUP SIZE:
12 – 16 Volunteers
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.
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.
Rescue or Rehabilitation?
Please be aware that standards and resources are not like those of many rescue centres or sanctuaries in the western world. In Asia, funding and resources are in short supply. Most rescue centres often have more animals than their original capacity. Essentially, the aim is to rehabilitate any animal that has been rescued from cruel and inadequate conditions. Ideally, they should have the chance to ‘re-wild’ , so that they can be released into their original habitat.
In reality, there are many animals that have been in captivity through the illegal pet trade. Often their mothers or whole families were killed to capture them. Subsequently, they spent months or years in terrible conditions with an unsuitable diet. They were either someone’s pet or an attraction in a restaurant.
So, this means that most of the animals can never be set free into the wild, as they do no have the ability to adapt and survive. These animals will be provided with life-long care at the centre.
A few lucky ones are suited to be released. But a lot of preparation and effort is needed to rehabilitate these animals. Otherwise they are likely to die of starvation or conflict with humans. Research has shown this has happened to the majority of released animals. So careful monitoring is vital .