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Borneo orangutans

Thursday, December 10, 2009
Everyone in the Getaway office volunteered to head to Malaysian Borneo to spend time with the orangutans. And everyone was envious when Kelly Landry landed the trip.

Considered the world's most intelligent animal after humans, the orangutan has 97 percent of its DNA in common with us. They can be found only in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra and are in perilous danger. The past 20 years have seen their habitat destroyed by logging and burning. Others have been rescued from the pet trade.

The Matang Wildlife Park in Malaysian Borneo is one of the few refuges remaining and it is encouraging volunteers to sign up and help.

Way Out Experiences runs two- or four-week programs for volunteers on the Great Orangutan Project. Leo Biddle has donated the last five years of his life to the project and manages the rehabilitation and eventual release of the incredible creatures.

Volunteers stay in traditional long houses in the park and all food and local transport are included. Your donation covers costs and once you arrive it's a matter of helping with whatever needs to be done.

There always plenty to be done with the building and maintenance of climbing platforms. Lunch for the animals is set out on different parts of the platform to teach foraging behaviour. It is better for their future to look for food rather than have it presented by human handlers.

Kelly met Amam, possibly the largest male orangutan in captivity. Some years ago he bit through an electrical cable and literally fried his eyes. In 2007 some South African veterinarians, who had removed cataracts from cheetahs, donated their time and now Amam can see again.

There were 16 orangutans at the centre when Kelly was there with new arrivals almost every day. Four-year-old Ting Sang has lived in the park for two years and will soon be ready to head out on her own.

Rehabilitation varies depending upon the individual animal. In the wild they spend six to nine years with their mother, learning how to survive. It can take five to 15 years in the park.

Because of the intelligence of the orangutans they become bored very easily, and food puzzles keep them — and everyone watching — entertained.

Location

The Matang Wildlife Park, 30 minutes from Kuching in Malaysian Borneo.

Cost

Way Out Experiences has two- and four-week volunteer programs with the Great Orangutan Project. Prices start at $1990 per person and include all accommodation, meals, access permits, private transfers a local guide and donation. Check their website for 2010 dates.

Prices correct at December 10, 2009.

For further information

Great Orang Utan Project
Way Out Experiences
Studio 6, 8 High Street
Harpenden,
Hertsfordshire Al5 2TB
United Kingdom
Ph: +44 845 371 3070
www.orangutanproject.com
orangutan@w-o-x.com

Matang Wildlife Centre
Semenggoh Orang Utan Rehbilitation
www.tourism.gov.my

Visas: Australians can enter Malaysia without a visa. Thirty-day entry permits will be issued, but customs officials can grant 90 day permits at their discretion.

Electricity: Plugs have three pins, identical in shape and voltage to British plugs, so Australian travellers will need a UK adaptor. They operate at 230V/50Hz.

Time zone: Malaysia time is GMT +8.

Currency: The ringgit Malaysia (RM).

International dialling code: + 60.

It is recommended travellers to Borneo see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit www.welltogo.com.au and www.smarttraveller.gov.au.

User comments
For all those interested, the Australian Orangutan Project has been running for more than 10 years, check out their website to see what they do. www.orangutan.org.au. I have been to fundraisers in Sydney and Melbourne, and really enjoyed helping this worthwhile organisation, learning so much from wonderful speakers who work with the Orangutan.
After seeing this story about 7 months ago on TV, I booked for myself and a friend to go in May 2009. Seeing it aired again has given me great satisfaction in knowing I'm going there and can't wait. If you want to know more, or if you are joining the same group on the 19th May, email me directly theflyingcelebrant at yahoo.com.au . I have a link to a site which I have set up to make donations directly towards orangutan rehab all over the world if you are interested. Fully tax deductable of course. Thanks GETAWAY, it's an awesome heart warming story and what a way to have a 'real' holiday. I'll update you with a story when we get back! Rebecca Parsey Hobart Tasmania
I,ve been there twice! It's great, it's gonna change your life!
Hello to all, I am very very interested in saving the orangutans and have been on a mission not to purchase any products with palm oil and letting many others know this as well. In time there will be no such thing as the wild and natural orangutans. I just think they are the most beautiful creatures God as ever created, for some reason they just fascinating. As soon as my partner saw this on Getaway we knew we wanted to go there straight away. My partner is even talking about going to give up his Christmas break to go back with his family which is in Ukraine. I knew that you could volunteer with the panda's in china and the elephants in Thailand this is the first time a person from another country can volunteer for this program. I think it is a wonderful thing to happen and there should be more programs like this to let individuals know these animals need help and to help the environment to stop this unnecessary destroying of the forests and to make themselves feel good.
Matang Wildlife Centre in Kuching do offer ONE DAY "Heart to Heart" CSR Orangutan Program for corporate. Max 20 pax per time and the conservation fee is MYR7300 (20 pax). Volunteer time & help the orangutans- be a park ranger. The conservation fee is solely for the Matang Wildlife Centre, which exclude the cost for arrange a rainforest picnic lunch at the nearby Matang Family Park, transportation and hotel accommodation. More details, please contact Sarawak Convention Bureau. www.sarawakcb.com
This sounds amazing, a real fab idea, lets go
Interesting program. I know that you can read more about the Matang Wildlife Park and Semenggoh Orang Utan Rehbilitation at www.sarawakforestry.com Other useful info on Kuching can read from www.borneotravel.com and www.borneotalk.com

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