Volunteer Programme

Volunteer in Borneo with Orangutan Foundation in 2018

We are looking for a few more adventurous individuals to join our volunteer team in Borneo. This year's project is the renovation of a forest guard post in the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve.  Volunteers will be working and living on the site, which is a beautiful remote location in the middle of the forest. You will wake up and go to sleep to the sounds of the forest.

Last November, The Guardian ran an article featuring a first-hand account from one of our volunteer. It is well worth a read if you are interested in volunteering.  https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/nov/01/borneo-voluntourism-holiday-orangutan-foundation 

Orangutan Foundation does not allow any of its volunteers to have direct contact with orangutans and this is for the benefit of the apes. Most people understand this and can see the bigger picture of what they are doing.  Watch Orangutan Foundation’s Cathy Smith talking at Compass Ethical Travel Conference about ethical volunteering.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=213&v=3KM4ZBLvo38

If you want to spend a unique 3 weeks doing something worthwhile for orangutan conservation and see orangutans in the wild, then why not make this the year to join us? To find out more please click here or contact us.

An Adventure in the Bornean Rainforest

Long standing supporter, volunteer and 2016 volunteer coordinator, Joanne Cotton, shares her experience of voluntary work in Borneo gained from taking part in the Orangutan Foundation Volunteer Programme.

2016 Volunteers pose for a photograph, coconuts in hand.

“I had trawled the internet for hours reading up about potential volunteer programmes, many of which offered fun and adventure in far off lands but somehow there was something lacking. As soon as I read the information about the Orangutan Foundation programme, I knew that I had found the right adventure for me. It was really important to me that whatever project I joined, it had genuine heart and soul for a worthwhile cause, a real opportunity to help make a much needed difference. The Orangutan Foundation offered this by the bucket load! This was an opportunity to live and work in the rainforest in Indonesian Borneo with a local team doing building work that ultimately was to facilitate the release of orangutans in the area.

I applied for the programme straight away and was very glad I had done so as places were limited. The Orangutan Foundation arranged for a telephone interview with me, this was just an informal chat but was a great opportunity for them to check that I was suitable for such an experience and also for me to ask all of the many questions I had been thinking about.

That’s how my adventure started and six months later I found myself at an airport, on the other side of the planet, all by myself. I had never done anything like this before and it felt amazing, I felt so liberated, yet it had only just begun!


Volunteers get to grips with basic construction work, 2016.

When I signed up to do this project, this was well outside of my comfort zone but the staff at Orangutan Foundation were extremely helpful and supportive and provided me with lots of useful information so that I could be as prepared as possible for what lay ahead. If you are thinking of joining an Orangutan Foundation programme in the future, I cannot recommend it enough, just do it! It will open your eyes and it is likely that you will never look at our planet and life the same way again."

Applications for this year’s Volunteer Programme are now OPEN. Email info@orangutan.org.uk to receive an application form. Please join us for an unforgettable experience!

Orangutan Foundation: 2016 in pictures and numbers. A huge thank you for your support.

6,000 wild Bornean orangutans live in the Belantikan region. The largest population outside of a protected area. Orangutan Foundation actively engages key stakeholders to conserve this critical tropical forest ecosystem.

The Belantikan Forest.

33 wild orangutans rescued. One particularly poignant rescue was Narti, who was found completely stranded, clinging to the burnt remnants of a tree surrounded by oil palms.

Narti was found completely stranded.

36 rescues of other wildlife species. All released into the safety of the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve.

A Brahminy Kite rescued by the Foundation.


A sunbear pictured shortly after release.


A slow loris rescued by Foundation staff.


16,000 Ubar tree seedlings nurtured and planted to restore areas of the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve damaged by forest fires in 2015.

A nursery worker tending to seedlings.

One new patron. Patrick Aryee and Offspring Films visited our work in Borneo to film for “Monkeys: An Amazing Animal Family”, a three-part series which first aired on Sky 1, on Christmas day. Star of the show, was Okto who was charmed by Patrick’s presenting skills!

Okto, our adoption star!


Foundation Director Ashley Leiman with Orangutan Foundation Patron Patrick Aryee.

Eight volunteers and one new guard post. In July, the construction of Guard Post 25 began. Now up and running, this guard post is critical for the protection of the new 8,000 hectare extension of the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve.

2016 Volunteers.

The newly completed guard post 25.

Our 25th anniversary year saw the opening of Tanjung Harapan’s Information Centre, in Tanjung Tanjung Puting National Park. Renovated by our 2015 volunteers and designed by the Cube in Residence Programme.

Cutting the ribbon to mark the opening of the Information Centre.


Orangutan Foundation Director Ashley Leiman with the administrative head of Tanjung Puting National Park.


Visitors taking in the exhibits in the Information Centre

104 air rifle pellets were found in lodged in orangutan Aan, 32 of which in her head left her blind, in 2012. In October 2016, ophthalmic surgeon, Claudia Hartley, visited Aan to assess the permanence of her blindness. 

Aan, found blinded by air rifle pellets.

What a wonderful start to 2017 to have the chance to restore Aan's sight. Claudia Hartley will be returning the to field with her team and specialist equipment in February to remove a cataract, currently affecting Aan's vision in her one remaining eye.
DONATE NOW to help us to raise £2000 to fund this vital operation to give Aan a second chance in the wild.

Adventures in Borneo

This summer I had the unique opportunity to visit Central Kalimantan to see the area in which the Orangutan Foundation operates. I have been interning with the Foundation for 4 months, and I’m familiar with many of the areas they protect, although by name only. Therefore, it was a pleasure to see these landmarks in the flesh and meet the Indonesian team that work so hard to protect them. The various camps are most easily reached via Kalimantan’s river systems. As I travelled down river by speedboat, the waterfront houses of Pangkalan Bun quickly turned into dense forest. Noteworthy sightswere various indicators of habitat loss, such as logs being transported towards the town. Kingfishers darted in front of the boat so fast that getting a good photo was impossible!

Whizzing down these waterways was the highlight of my trip

I first visited the site of the new guard post where this year’s volunteers were making excellent headway into its construction. The volunteers were a hardworking, dedicated bunch from all walks of life! They were all dedicated to the cause and felt genuine, collective concern for the threat of habitat loss, highlighted by the constant stream of reminders around them. They spoke of awaking to the sound of chainsaws, highlighting the need for a guard post in the area.

Myself, some of the Indonesian staff, and our volunteers!

Afterward, I got to visit Camp Buluh. This is the current home of Sugih, a 5-year-old female who was rescued by OF, previously kept as a pet. Foundation staff informed me that she had made good progress, she was behaving as a wild orangutan should - encouraging news.

Sugih being helped into the trees to practise nest building

The next day was the volunteer’s day off, and I was lucky enough to join them to visit Camp JL, where Okto and Ketty are currently being cared for, and Camp Gemini. Okto and Ketty were a lively duo to watch, and really quite amusing, with Okto dropping to the ground at one stage and crossing his arms as if to say “I am not doing any more nest-building practice!”. Hopefully in time he’ll exhibit less of this behaviour, as wild orangutans are rarely seen on the forest floor.

Okto swinging around in the trees above us.

Camp Gemini’s feeding station was a hive of activity; we saw many mothers with infants who inhabited the forest nearby. They began to crowd around with the promise of fresh fruit! We even saw a wild male, enticed by the fruit - and the females!

Hola Honolulu looking decidedly comfortable in the company of a wild male

On my last day, I was taken to visit Pondok Ambung, the Foundation’s research station situated within Tanjung Puting National Park. There were 15 camera traps placed around this area which provided evidence of a plethora of wildlife who call this National Park home.

Pondok Ambung staff member checking the camera traps for new images

We then visited the famed Camp Leakey where I saw a gibbon amongst the orangutans visiting the feeding station, which moved too swiftly through the tree tops for a photo! The traffic caused by the tourist’s klotoks was really a sight to behold, displaying how popular this area has become with people from around the world.

The journey back to Kumai was magical, made so by numerous orangutans who had begun to make their nests by the river’s edge.

Orangutan by the river’s edge looking as interested in me as I was in her

I had a fantastic time visiting this wonderland that so many orangutans call home. I would urge anybody who has not already done so to check out the various trips available to visit for themselves, particularly the Volunteer Programme (http://www.orangutan.org.uk/orangutan-tours). I’ve definitely received a ginger thumbs up from the orangutans in the area, as well as being made to feel very welcome by the excellent Indonesian staff members. Many thanks and hoping I’ll be back soon!


My Bornean Adventure

by Joanne Cotton Returning volunteer, Joanne Cotton, shares her experiences from the Orangutan Foundation's past summer volunteer programmes.

cozy klotok

June 2012

Yesterday was another great day as we travelled by boat for about 4 hours through the National Park. The scenery was stunning and the further into the journey we got, the more stunning the jungle scenery became. We saw wild orangutans, proboscis monkeys and many other animals which I can’t even remember the names of. I am really trying to commit everything to memory but the senses are completely overloaded!

The boat was moored up for the night and after eating our evening meal of fresh fish and stir fried vegetables with tempeh we were taken on a night walk. It gets dark at about half past five here but it turns out that there is as much to see during the night as there is during the day. One of the local Indonesians was obviously really keen to help us see as much as possible. He showed us a tarantula, smoking mushrooms and even our first leech of the trip!

Tomorrow we have a day at Camp Leakey where we will see orangutans of all ages up close, I can’t wait. Then, after a few days of getting used to the heat and the time difference we will head out to camp which will be our home for the next few weeks. That’s when the hard work building a boardwalk begins! But for now I am off to take a shower out of a bucket of river water with a hole in it!


September 2015

I am so thrilled to be back here! Borneo really stole a piece of my heart during my first trip. This trip is completely different from the first time. This time, although the work is still physically hard, it’s not quite as dirty! We are helping to rebuild an education centre in the National Park which involves lots of hammering, sawing and painting.

Last night I slept outside in a hammock for the first time and as I was falling asleep I could hear the orangutan long call in the trees around me. We tend to wake up quite early here and today I was woken by the macaques playing in the trees next to me.

Today was our day off so a few of us took a Klotok down the river to a little village. Our camp is located right on the river and there is so much wildlife here, we have even seen a crocodile a little further up the river!

Our lifestyle is very basic here, but I don’t find myself left wanting for anything. We work hard, are well fed and have had many laughs. We have been learning a lot about the wildlife and local culture from the Indonesians and we are even learning a little bit of Indonesian along the way.

I can see that each volunteer project is very unique and offers a very different experience each time. It will never be the same experience twice…. but that’s all the more reason to keep coming back!

camp fame

Applications are NOW OPEN for the 2016 programme! To apply for this year's summer volunteer programme, click here


Now it's New Year, we look back with confidence, knowing that we have made a difference...

The Foundation works in three areas of critical orangutan habitat. We extend the scope of our achievements by patrolling an area almost as large as the land area of Singapore. Our strategically located guard posts are therefore vital. We have been able to rescue more and more orangutans whose lives were in imminent danger. 75% of all orangutans live outside protected areas, so with our partners, we launched a campaign to collaborate with 18 oil palm companies for the protection of orangutans within the forests of their companies concessions and surrounding areas.A new born infant rides on their mother’s back.

  • In 2014, the Foundation translocated 17 orangutans into the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve.
  • Torup and Kotim were rescued from community land and both are now in the ‘Soft Release’ programme, learning skills for an independent life in the wild.
  • 2014 saw the birth of two infants, and two more orangutans are due to give birth in mid 2015.
  • An exciting new initiative was the installation of camera traps in Pondok Ambung, Tanjung Puting National Park and Belantikan Arut. Without these camera traps, we would of never have had sightings of clouded leopards, one of the most elusive species of the tropical forest.

Camera trap captures a clouded leopard.

  • The Volunteer Programme once again proved its worth, by renovating a Guard Post on a vulnerable river in the south of Tanjung Puting National Park.
  • An important research project is the Population and distribution of the endangered banteng (wild ox), found in the Belantikan region. This is critical to the banteng’s future status.

Our teams bravely fight fires, the blaze reoccurring every dry season.

  •  Thanks to the diligence of the Foundation staff, forest fires (an annual problem) were quickly identified and isolated, which prevented further areas of the forest from being burnt.

Thank you to all - your support really does make a difference and the orangutan foundation could not have achieved any the above without your help. A very happy New Year.

The wonders of life – help save forests and orangutans!

Needed: 12 adventurous individuals for 6 weeks volunteer work in Borneo. Your mission: to build a guard post that will strengthen the protection of a wildlife reserve that’s home to the endangered Bornean orangutan, gibbon, clouded leopard and thousands of other amazing species.

You must be healthy, fit and ready for a challenge. A sense of humour is a must and, unlike orangutans, you must be able to work and live in a group!

Find out more: email cat@orangutan.org.uk or call 020 7724 2912



Volunteer with Orangutan Foundation in Borneo!

I have been running the Orangutan Foundation’s Volunteer Programme for 4 years now, and remain proud to be doing so. I have visited the Programme a couple of times since my first participation in 2001 and I am as blown away by the experience now as I was then! Originally set up as a method of bolstering our field operations whilst offering individuals the opportunity to actively help and experience a unique lifestyle in Borneo, it continues to be an unbridled success. Its achievements to-date include; a number of guard and patrol posts in Tanjung Puting National Park and the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve; an orangutan release camp; provision of clean drinking water to villages in the Belantikan Hulu region; and the Pondok Ambung Tropical Forest Research Station , to name but a few!

Volunteer Team 1 - 2009

2009 Volunteer Team with Orangutan Foundation staff

One of the things I love most about the Programme is its transparency – all money paid by volunteers goes into their project that year, paying not only for the volunteer food and accommodation but also for the Indonesian staff, work tools and materials. Oh, and it is brilliant fun for everyone who takes part! The fact that we have had the same staff involved for years and that a significant number of volunteers return to Borneo speaks for itself.

2010 sees the Volunteer Programme enter its 11th year and we continue with our winning formula – teams of 12 people go out for a 6 week period and live a basic lifestyle, helping with manual labour and construction work to aid our field operations.

Camp Mangkung orangutan release site

Camp Mangkung, built and painted by volunteers in 2008 

In 2008, the Volunteer Programme built the Lamandau reserve’s 6th orangutan release camp, called Camp Mangkung. It consists of a kitchen and storeroom, accommodation rooms, office and orangutan holding cage. Mangkung was recently designated as an official site for the release of translocated orangutans - meaning that wild healthy orangutans directly threaten by habitat destruction (eg from a palm oil plantation, like female orangutan Memes), can be moved and will be released at Camp Mangkung.

During the dry season or times of low rain, river access to Camp Mangkung is impossible and so we need to build a boardwalk so that we have reliable access to the site. This will be the focus of the 2010 project - thus there will be high levels of chiselling, sawing and hammering….plus some digging!

Volunteer from Team 2 2009 with a little helping paw!

John a volunteer from Team 2 in 2009 with a little helping paw!

If you want to spend a unique 6 weeks doing something worthwhile for orangutan conservation, make friends for life and see orangutans in the wild, then why not make this the year to join us?

Bornean orangutan in tree

What all the hard work is for!

Dates for the 2010 Programme are:

Team 1 – 1st May to 12th June

Team 2 – 26th June to 7th August

Please note that it is extremely likely that we will be running a 3rd team from, 21st August. This will be confirmed within the next couple of weeks on our website.

Further information may be found in the 2010 Volunteer Programme Brochure on our website.

Elly - Orangutan Foundation Development and Volunteer Co-ordinator

Orangutan Foundation Volunteer Programme

You're probably aware that the Orangutan Foundation runs a Volunteer Programme (see Categories for past posts)  This year's programme has been different in that we are working closely with our partners Yayorin on a water purification project in the Belantikan Arut region of Central Kalimantan. Belantikan is home to the largest remaning population of orangutans in an unprotected area and is a biodiversity hotspot. 

Our strategy involves community empowerment, education and agricultural management to help villagers protect their forests. This year’s Volunteer Programme fits in by working with the local communities and further improving our relationship with them, whilst gaining their respect and providing villagers with a cleaner, safer water-source.  Each team will work in a different village. At each village, a natural spring has been identified as an alternative source to the river which is currently used for transport, bathing, washing and as a toilet. The teams build a dam to harness the spring water and then a pipe system takes it down to the village.

Volunteers return to camp after a hard days work

Climbing back up to the jetty after a hard days work 

Team 1 ended on 13th June and the village of Nanga Matu (home to Yayorin’s basecamp) now has taps providing clean water from a natural hillside spring on the other side of the river. The construction was no mean feat and massive thanks go to the hardworking volunteers and Volunteer Co-ordinators who made the project succeed.   Team 2 is already well into their work in the village of Bintang Mengalih and I was there to see the project commence. The team are living in a small community house where personal space is non- existent, and the movements and activities of us visitors is of most interest to the locals.

Volunteers are treated to a traditional party at one of the villages 

Volunteers are treated to a traditional party by a local village 

Whilst there, I encountered leeches, a scorpion, poisonous millipedes and lots of peat. Bathing is in a nearby river and we dug a long-drop toilet behind the accommodation. Before work began we had to go the village hall and formally meet the village head and some local villagers.

Village children keen to “hang out” with volunteers 

Local children were keen to "hang out" with the volunteers. 

The village were so appreciative of our work that they provided us with four local people to help on the project. They really were very excited and grateful about the work of Orangutan Foundation.  By 8th August Bintang Mengalih will have clean water to drink at the turn of a tap!!


Elly (UK Volunteer Co-ordinator)

Volunteer for orangutans

Recently we've received a few comments enquiring about volunteer work with orangutans or other great apes. The Orangutan Foundation's Volunteer Programme offers individuals the chance to become involved in conservation fieldwork and see ex-captive and, hopefully, wild orangutans. The work is of manual construction/ labouring nature but it is vital to our conservation work and carried out in orangutan habitat. There are still a couple of places remaining for this year's programme, which will be based in the Belantikan Arut region of Indonesian Borneo. The duration of the programme is six weeks. All participants must be a member of the Orangutan Foundation, at least 18 years of age, in good health and prepared to undertake manual work. Living conditions are basic and very remote. The cost of taking part in the programme is £730. This payment covers all accommodation, food, and materials for the duration of the programme but does not include international and internal travel to the project site. It should be noted that particpants will not have direct contact with orangutans. For more information on the programme please see our 2009 Volunteer Programme brochure on our website. If you have any further questions or would like to apply then please contact ELLY at the Orangutan Foundation office (elly@orangutan.org.uk or 0044 (0)207 724 2912) for more detailed information.

Megan, as you're 12 years old you are too young for our programme. Don't be disheartened though as there is still a lot you can do to help! Consider organising a fundraising or awareness event at your school, social club, or with your friends. Maybe you could ask a relative to foster an orangutan for you as birthday present. Become involved with a local conservation or wildlife charity who may have volunteer days you can become involved with. As we discovered with our Orange for Orangutan Day - every little act helps to make a difference. (For your diary: the next Orange for Orangutan Day is Thursday 12th November 2009 and information will be available on our website soon)

Kampung Konservasi January Blog - Sustainable livelihoods for communities living close to areas of orangutan habitat.

FISH HARVEST One of the alternative income-generating activities that Kampung Konservasi offers the local communities is low-impact fish farming. On Kampung Konservasi ground, we have three very simple fish ponds, which are – literally – just “big holes” on the ground.

Fishpond - Kampung Konservasi

Fishpond 2 - Kampung Konservasi

Fishpond 3 - Kampung Konservasi

The three different styles of simple fishponds demonstrated by Kampung Konservasi.

Because our ground is naturally “wet” (mostly peat swamp), we do not have to do much to regulate the water flows. We just worked with the land contour and designed our ponds so that they are as low maintenance as possible. This way, local farmers can easily duplicate our methods and feel interested to try because it does not require much commitment from their part. To fortify the walls, we used simple materials such as bamboos, sand bags and polybags filled with vegetable seedlings.

We then put two species of fish in our ponds: one is nila, a consumption fish species that originally came from Africa but has become very common all over the world; another one is patin, a local Kalimantan species that has also become a very common consumption fish species. Both have been doing very well in our ponds, although our patin grow a little better and faster in semi-peat swamp water.

Fish harvesting

Encouraging community participation and the uptake of this low-impact fish farming.

Patin - common species of fish found in Kalimantan.

Patin - common species of fish found in Kalimantan, Borneo

Just recently Kampung Konservasi decided to empty its fish ponds because we wanted to fix the walls. We did not expect that there will be so much fish! In only this one harvest, we managed to sell 56 kilograms of fish to the local housewives and restaurants. In 2008 alone, our alternative fish farm produced more than 200 kilograms of fish and sold well in the local market. Once again, Kampung Konservasi have proven to the local communities that fish farming is another potential income-generating activity for this area.


Sally (Yayorin)

Volunteering in Belantikan

The Belantikan Hulu ecosystem in Central Kalimantan is a priority conservation area for Orangutan Foundation and their partner Yayorin. The still surviving dense forest there is home to an incredible diversity of species, including the largest population of wild orangutans outside of a protected area. Belantikan Conservation Programme focuses on both researching and cataloguing the wildlife of the area and working with the local communities to develop ways to maintain their traditional lifestyles without having a detrimental impact on the forest ecosystem. As part of Yayorin’s capacity building educational programme Catherine Burns and myself, former Orangutan Foundation volunteers, travelled to Belantikan to work with Yayorin as English teachers in the schools of the villages of Nanga Matu, Kahingai and Bintang Mengalih. Orangutan Foundation invited me to blog about our time there and the ongoing struggle to save this precious part of the Borneo forest. You can read my account of our experience over the next week.


David Hagan

Thank you and Happy New Year!

Thank you Mike T. and Matthew K. for your donations in support of our work - a good start to 2009. We are delighted to begin this year by bringing you a really interesting blog from David Hagan, a committed volunteer of Orangutan Foundation and our partners, Yayorin. David and his fellow volunteer Catherine Burns spent a month teaching English in remote village schools of the Belantikan Hulu forests, Central Kalimantan (Borneo). We hope you will enjoy reading David's blog, which will be posted throughout this week.

Thank you for your continued support and interest,

Cathy - Orangutan Foundation

Volunteering again…seven years on

Our volunteer programme is now in its 10th year, which is testament enough to its success. Paying volunteers inject an income and workforce into our field projects and without volunteer participation our orangutan release sites would not be nearly as smooth-running or numerous as they are. In the past, volunteers have also built guard posts, constructed portal gates across rivers to block illegal loggers and constructed the Pondok Ambung Tropical Research Station. This year the teams have built a release site at Camp Mangkung (see former post “Orangutan Release Site Nearly Ready”). Building the release site.

When I joined the programme the main buildings were all up and there was just cementing, attaching of doors/windows and a load of painting to do. I arrived mid-afternoon to the sound of hammering, sanding and Bon Jovi (music, preferably cheesy, is always a necessity for motivation in the afternoons!). The river had risen sufficiently to render the camp an island and it instantly reminded me of Big Brother just for the sheer lack of space.

Camp Mangkung -Vol Prog 2008

I always tell volunteers about the lack of “head space” when they are flung together as a group for 6 weeks with no email/phone etc, but even I myself was not quite prepared for the lack of physical space to move around. These guys had had it for four weeks, and yet they were still upbeat and working hard, joking and laughing (admittedly quite a few Oreos were eaten, but we all need a sugar fix every now and then). It just goes to show, provided you have passion for the cause for which you are working, you can keep motivated whatever.

Vol Prog 2008

I happily got stuck in to the work for the short while I was there and was delighted to manage not to remove any thumbnails, or cement anyone to the floor! It was so good to just get down to work, have a bit of chat, and not be stuck looking at a PC. The work is physically quite tough, but to be able to step back and see the finished product at the end of your time there really does make it worthwhile. This could explain why we had to take several pauses during the work…..

I can honestly say that the programme really has not changed at all since my first time; the only difference is that the Indonesians assistants are more into wearing boardshorts than combats these days and there is a greater range of chocolate snacks brought into camp to cheer up flagging volunteers.

Camp Mangkung -Vol Prog 2008

I was also pleased to slip back into the way of life there where evenings are spent drinking tea and chatting and learning Indonesian with the local guys working there. It really does make you re-assess how we spend our time back at home. In fact, the volunteer programme seems to make everyone take stock of their lives, motivations and beliefs when they get home. It may sound clichéd, but all of our feedback to date suggests that volunteers see the programme as a time when they saw another side to life as well as thoroughly enjoyed themselves whilst doing something constructive and beneficial for the orangutans and the forest.

Vol Prog 2008 - release site

I left the volunteers on the final stages of the building, safe in the knowledge that they would get their reward going to Camp Rasak to see an operational orangutan release site. Apparently they all loved it, which is perfect; the fruits of their labour should be echoing the activity of Rasak in a few months, and they can all be proud. Some people are even talking about coming back next year, so maybe they will be able to see it in action. Thanks to Jordi Clopes for all these photographs.

If anyone wants to know more about the volunteer programme then please have a look at the brochure on our website. Volunteer Brochure

I am now (sadly) back in the UK and the contrast to the Indonesian laid-back culture could not be greater. Madness seems to have hit, and the interest in Orangutan Awareness Week and Orange for Orangutan day (November 14th) is all consuming…..

Visiting Orangutan Foundation Programmes

As you will no doubt know from Stephen’s posts about a month ago, I recently ventured out of the London office and over to Pangkalan Bun (Borneo) or, more accurately “the field”. This was not my first time there; my employment here (for my part!) is the result of me being completely overwhelmed by the plight of the orangutans when I stumbled upon the Volunteer Programme in 2001. Amongst other things, I now run the Volunteer Programme here at Orangutan Foundation and continue to get enormous pleasure from arranging for people go over to Indonesia for what pretty much always ends up as a life-changing experience. The small size of the UK office means that I have my fingers in many of the Orangutan Foundation pies and so my trip out there was also to see the programmes that I write about day-in-day-out. In short, it was an amazing trip and reminded me that I work primarily to save the orangutans and their home, something that seems to slip the mind in hectic times.

The highlight was most definitely going to Camp Rasak (orangutan release in Lamandau Wildlife Reserve) and knowing that the orangutans I saw in the trees were primarily orangutans that would have been in the Orangutan Care Centre on my last visit in 2001. A close second was Belantikan. It really is a beautiful area and needs to be saved.

Belantikan Forest

Belantikan Forest

Belantikan Forest

It not only has orangutans but is some of the most amazing forest that I have ever seen (and I have seen a lot). Time is key too – in an eight hour journey there we drove through oil palm for six hours and heavily logged areas for one hour.

oil palm plantations en route to Belantikan

oil palm plantations en route to Belantikan

oil palm plantations en route to Belantikan

Oil Palm Plantation

logging in the Belantikan

Logging on the journey to Belantikan

It really was quite surreal –little dumper trucks carrying kernels or actual palm oil were the only traffic on the road…..and they seemed to infiltrate EVERY bit of land….

Seeing this destruction on the way really enforced how important our work with Yayorin, our Indonesian partners, in Belantikan is for these forests, its wildlife and the local communties who live here.

Catching up with the Volunteer Programme seven years on was one of the main reasons for me to go to Indonesia. I said I'd try and post about my time on the programme so I'll do this in the next few days!



Development & Volunteer Co-ordinator UK Office

Orangutan Release Site Almost Ready.

There is always something disconcerting about taking off your wet boots at the end of a day and having a big, fat leech drop out. The one that rolled out of my right sock yesterday, on my way to the new orangutan release site, was almost the size of my little finger. The one that was stuck to the inside of my calf (which I found later in the shower) was still filling up. That’s what you get walking through swamps in Borneo! Leeches don’t horrify my, the buzzing of mosquitoes and their annoying, itchy bites are, I think, worse. Anyway, the purpose of this blog wasn’t meant to describe the various blood-sucking invertebrates we encounter. Rather it was to tell you of yesterday’s trip to Camp Mangkung in the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve, our newest orangutan release site which was being built by our volunteer teams. The good news is the camp is just about finished. The volunteers have done another great job. Mangkung Vols Oct 08

Mangkung release site

Orangutan Painting Camp Mangkung

Orangutan Painting Camp Mangkung

Photos showing the almost finished release site (and some fine artwork) at Camp Mangkung in the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve.

Despite madly fluctuating water levels and pretty rudimentary construction skills the dining hall and sleeping accommodation are complete. All that still needs to be done is to build the toilet and wash rooms and then tidy the site.

We walked into the surrounding forest to scout potential feeding sites. Hanging the tyres won’t be a problem! Which reminds me to say thank you to everyone who has donated so far and to Brigitta, for your latest $20 donation; we already have enough for putting tyres up at Camps JL and Rasak. If you can continue to help us we will soon have enough for the remaining camps.

At the end of the day, rather than go back via the river, Dan Ward (volunteer coordinator) and I decided to walked out. I wanted to see what access would be like when the river is low. It was a great walk, except for the fact I did not find the leeches until I got home!

Volunteering in Borneo

I know Stephen continually refers to time flying and questions where time goes…well, it certainly happens to me too. It seems like just yesterday that I was interviewing an eclectic group of people wanting to be a part of our 2008 Volunteer Programme and yet the final team are over half way through their 6 weeks of fun in the forest. I participated on the Orangutan Foundation’s volunteer programme in 2001 and I now work in the London office. As Stephen mentioned in his last post, I’m currently in Indonesia visiting the Foundation’s projects. I’m going to join in with the last two weeks of Team 3 – what am I letting myself in for?

I will report back here, in this blog.

So far all the teams have made a great headway on this year's project – a new release site near the Mangkung River in the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve. A release site sounds easy, but in reality it is a lot of work. From scratch we have to construct walkways, staff accommodation, kitchen, storage buildings, dig the latrine and make the release platform itself!

release site

First finished building of the release camp at Mangkung, 2nd on its way (note the volunteer accommodation in the distance on the right)

Travel -volunteer style!

Travel - volunteer style!

Team 3 are finding it quite a challenge to get it completed by the middle of October, however everyone who has contributed will be able to see the final fruits of their labour when we have our first orangutans released there.

If you think you would like to be a part of the 2009 Volunteer Programme then please visit Orangutan Foundation website.



Development & Volunteer Co-ordinator UK Office

Busy, busy, busy

Once again, I find myself in the unenviable position of having to apologise for the long silence.  I know I have neglected to keep you up to date with all that is going on in orangutan-land.  If I have an excuse it is only that I have been struggling to keep up myself.  June has looked like this:  afloat_again.JPG

 (Supply boat after it was refloated, repaired and painted)

First week:  Five straight days in the field investigating a case of illegal farming inside the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve, which is when I managed to get Jak hopelessly lost (or vice-versa as I still maintain!) followed by a meeting with the mangers of one of the palm-oil plantations which border the Reserve.  After that, we continued onto Sukamara, the next district capital, where we are establishing an office. 


Second week: To Jakarta where Astri, I and representatives of seven other projects attended a coordination meeting with the European Commission Delegation prior to the opening of the Indonesia Environment Week exhibition.  If nothing else, the meeting made us proud our little project is holding its own at the sharp end.  I also met with the director of a company which conducts bio-carbon surveys.  Many people are talking about trying to protect forests through carbon-offsets, or Reduced Emissions through avoided Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) projects, but very little is actually happening on the ground. That is a ring into which we want to throw our hat – Belantikan is a stand-out candidate for protection.  For a taste of what this involves have a look at http://www.climate-standards.org/ and follow the links to “Climate, Community & Biodiversity Project Design Standards, Draft Second Edition”.  Finally, I met with the coordinators of the cross border, USAID funded project we are working on. 

Third week:  Should have been back in the office attending to paperwork, but it did not turn out that way!  Our supply boat was battered in heavy seas, made it to the Buluh Besar guard post then promptly sank.  Our supervisor, Teguh, was apologetic but he really needn’t have been: clearly not his fault.  I also went back to Lamandau to check on progress at the new release camp which the volunteers are building.  Then, last weekend, I went up to Pondok Ambung to have a few days with the crocodile researcher.


In between there was the usual mix of staff management issues (how do you budget for out-of-the-blue double digit inflation?); an audit; a volunteer with a horribly infected leg derived from over-zealous scratching of mosquito bites and my Indonesian counter-part saying he can’t continue to work in Borneo with his wife – who is expecting their first child – still in Java.  He has been like a second limb to me, and his departure is big blow.


I am sure like many other people reading this blog, my problem is trying to juggle too many balls at the same time. A problem which is made worse by my being a mere male who is genetically incapable of multi-tasking!  The up-side, however, is that I did manage to sneak up to Camp Leakey to see Uning the daughter of one of my favourite orangutans, Unyuk.  Uning has just had her first baby.  It was great to see them.



Many thanks,

Orangutan Foundation


Stephen has been in Tanjung Puting National Park over the weekend visiting Pondok Ambung Research Station and Camp Leakey so we can look forward to hearing some interesting stories on his return! I have been reading through the past comments and noticed there are a few about volunteering or working with orangutans that haven't had a response. The Orangutan Foundation run a Volunteer Programme which is based in and around TPNP and the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve - click on the the Volunteer Programme category to read about it in this blog. Anyone interested in volunteering or supporting our work by joining one of the trips (Study Tours, Photographic Trip) that the Foundation runs should visit our website (link on the sidebar) or contact the UK office (info@orangutan.org.uk).

On behalf of the UK office thank you for your interest and support,


Orangutan Foundation

Volunteer programme

Committed, enthusiastic, slightly nutty (it helps!) and hard working - our volunteers. Another year's volunteer programme has ended and again it has proved to be invaluable to our field operations. The programme has been running successfully for seven years. Each year, between April and November, we have up to four teams coming out to work with us in the field. Volunteers pay £600 for six weeks which covers all their living expenses but also importantly pays for all the construction and material used during the programme. All of the money received from the volunteer programme stays in the field.

For the past few years, the main target area of the programme has been the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve. Projects have included the construction of guard posts, building release sites for ex-captive orangutans, marking out boundaries and assisting with reforestation programmes. In 2008 we hope to build two new orangutan sites in Lamandau in order to relieve pressure at the OCCQ. All of the teams in 2008 will be concentrating on constructing one of the release sites and we hope to raise funds for the construction of the other site.

Vicky Dauncey, the volunteer co-ordinator for this year has sent us a taster of what the last two teams got up to....

Map of TPNP and Lamandau

Map - to help to get your bearings!

Team 3 - Our focus on this team was to construct a guard post in Sungai Mangkung, Lamandau. We experienced a lot of rain!!

vol prg T3

By the second week there was no dry land except the pondok and the building site but the upside to this meant it was cooler in the day and so it made the physical work less demanding. Morale stayed high during our work in Lamandau despite the flooding (in the last few days the water entered the pondok!).

Volunteer programme 2

Team 3 Vol prg 2007

Volunteers and Orangutan Foundation staff at Sungai Mangkung, Lamandau

Eventually we were forced to leave without finishing the post. This meant that we had a few days, on the beach, at Tanjung Keluang, planting saplings and cleaning the area of rubbish. This was funded by the Forestry Department and we worked with two forestry department staff whilst we were there. Living (sleeping in hammocks) and working at Tanjung Keluang was an incredible experience and one I hope the volunteers will not forget.

Team 4 - The first week was spent in Sungai Buluh Kecil, TPNP. Re-planting an area destroyed by fire. First we had to check an area that had been previously planted and replace dead saplings. This was particularly physically tough as the terrain is swamp. After six days the volunteers were exhausted and, although proud of their work, they were happy to leave!

Buluh kecil-river shot

Buluh kecil guardpost

Sungai Buluh Kecil, TPNP

Two rest days were spent in PKB and during this time we visited the OCCQ. The OCCQ really brings home the importance of building the guard posts and release camps in Lamandau and really helps to motivate the volunteers.

After the rest we went to Lamandau to finish the guard post at Sungai Mangkung, that was started by team 3. In comparison to the first week this seemed like light work and it helped that we were working in a beautiful location and that the water had receded!

Pak Sariamat, Pak Matjuri, Ibu Opit are long standing staff members and highly valued on the volunteer programme. Thank you for your continued hard work.

If the Volunteer Programme interests you please visit the Orangutan Foundation website www.orangutan.org.uk