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Volunteers' Stories




Orang-Utan & Sun Bear Conservation at Sepilok Rehabilitation Center in Borneo, Malaysia


Hey! I’m in love. My heart is beating like a jun-gle drum... Like nervous but excited kids on their first day of school, Sophie, Lucy and I slipped on our wellies, bid farewell to the other volunteers and made our way to the Sepilok Rehab Center (2 minute walk from the Resthouse where we live) for the first of our nine days of ‘work’ in the Clinic.

After a brief induction from Ibrie, one of the Center’s nurses, we attempt to feed the little ginger bundles of fun their breakfast (bananas and milk). This is a challenge in itself. It is like running the gauntlet through the night sleeping area as there are hands/feet grabbing at us from every direction. The cheeky things act all innocent while you are feeding them and look at you with their big brown eyes but all of a sudden a hand from above, below or from the side quickly grabs the milk, your shirt, or anything they can and before you know it you are having a tug of war with an Orang-Utan. Twice now I have had big chunks of hair ripped from my head and my knuckles have bite marks from one certain little feisty fella. There is squawking, squeaking and snorting noises coming from every direction. It really is a sight to see.

One by one we move the bigger Orang-Utans to their day play areas. The wee babies (each about one year old and about 30cm long) stay and swing in their hammocks. I cannot stop looking at the three babies, they are just so adorable. They cry out for cuddles all the time and just want to be loved. I am the right person for this job but it is not encouraged too often.

As you know, with animals comes poo, wee and vomit. I am now used to the joyous task of cleaning the night sleeping areas and outdoor play areas but I may have dry wretched just a little on the first day when hosing down some vomit. We have mastered this task and think nothing of it now.

Every day at 10.00am we select three older Orang-Utans to take out to the jungle play area by the lake. Each Orang-Utan has its own personality and they all interact with each other in different ways so we normally take out one naughty Orang-Utan and two ‘well behaved’ Orang-Utans. They are supposed to climb on the ropes and trees, practice building nests in the trees (Orang-Utans build a new nest every night to sleep in from tree branches), play and explore. Some Orang-Utans do this, some sit on the ground which is not encouraged as they are in danger of snake bites etc, some just want to wrestle each other (and us), some climb so high and don’t come back down when they are supposed to so we have to try and coax them down with bribes, but this does not always work, and some are perfect angels.

In the afternoon we take the three toddlers out to play in the small climbing area. My adopted Orang-Utan, Sen, looks like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, well, he is a menace. Half of the bruises and scratches I have on my body are from Sen. He is very active but loves to bite. The younger they are, the sharper the teeth. He knows how to play us but he behaves for the nurses and rangers.

Each Orang-Utan has their own story, some were kept as pets, some were rescued from the palm oil plantations, some are orphans, some are released into the wild but keep coming back to the Center. I love their individuality, the way they look at you and their similarity to humans is amazing. I often wonder what is going through their minds. They mimic what you do and they are so intelligent. We try to keep their minds and bodies active by giving them coconuts, iceblocks, toys, branches etc with the hope that one day they can amuse themselves out in the jungle

More Information about your Trip with Travellers

List of ALL PROJECTS in Malaysia
SEPILOK ORANG-UTAN Project in Malaysia