It was extremely hard to leave Australia as I have had such an amazing year and met so many lovely people, most importantly I got to meet my partner Benjamin whom I am excited to say is coming over to England in November. But for now, my work visa was running out and I had yet more travel plans arranged so I bid my farewells and boarded a plane to Borneo to fulfill a long time dream. I signed myself up for a 4 week Orangutan Volunteer Program at Matang Wildlife Centre in Kubah National Park.
Matang Wildlife Centre (MWC) is one of the very few orangutan rehabilitation centres in the world. The centres aim is to rehabilitate endangered animals with the eventual release back into the wild where they belong.
MWC not only holds Orangutans that have been rescued from the pet trade or from destroyed habitat but also houses several other animal groups including; sunbears, macaques, binturongs/bearcats, leopard cats, slow lorris, sambar deers, civets, gibbons, cloudy leopard, fresh and salt water crocodiles, all sorts of reptiles and birds. All these animals have either been surrendered into the centre by their owner or confiscated by authorities.
role of the volunteer is to assist with day to day husbandry duties of cleaning out night dens, to prepare enriching food puzzles to reduce behavioral stereotypy in long term captive animals, to monitor the wellbeing of the animal and learn more about them, and to maintain, paint and construct enclosures. Under no circumstance are we allowed to interaction with the orangutans or any other animal for that matter. Most of the animals at the centre at some point of their lives would have been in very close proximity to humans, many of them genuinely enjoy human company but it is important to get them passed this stage of human dependency/ interaction with the intention of reintroducing them to the wild.
Once I arrived in Matang, I met my fellow volunteers and got allocated to share a house with Mexican Ale and our ready-made family of mama cat with her new born litter of 3! Very cute! There were 7 volunteers in total and our houses (which were a 2 minute walk from the centre) were all next to each other. We sorted out a roster so that each house took turns in cooking so there were 3 houses
(2 x 2 x3) so I basically got to cook every 3 days which is good : ) We worked Monday to Friday and had the weekends to travel. Over the weekends we crammed in as much as possible, we treated ourselves to the swimming pool and cocktails at the Village House Resort, threw in a visit to the cultural village, did a boat trip along the croc infested waters and observed the different tribes, went to some wind and fairy caves, saw the Rafflesia flower that can grow upto 80cm, visited some waterfalls, climbed to the summit at Kubah National Park and almost died from altitude sickness, and went to Bako National Park and saw some Proboscis monkeys in our last wend and thought it was the highlight of the trip.
So I have come to the end of my 4 weeks with a whole scrap book of memories, minus a few kilos. Friendships have been made between fellow volunteers and special bonds have been created with the animals. If I had to summarize the highlight of my time on this project, without hesitating I would say would be the time spent observing the animals.
done such volunteer work before has made me appreciate that every little does help. It is an amazingly rewarding experience that has given me a taste for future projects. Organizations such as The Great Orangutan Project only exist through volunteer support. Please check out their website @ www.orangutanproject.com and make a difference.
Till next time! Love M. xx
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