The Wildlife Traveller

Travel blog of a wildlife lover

Orangutan release program: interview to volunteers


Borneo volunteer orangutan

As some of you may already know, I’ve recently volunteered at Phillip Island Nature Parks, where I met some extraordinary people. Two of  them are Rich (I worked with him at the Koala Conservation Centre) and his girlfriend Mindy. This wonderful couple is now ready to pack it all in and go to Borneo to volunteer at the Orangutan Release Program, so I asked them how they managed to do that and how they feel.

1.Are you guys ready and excited?
We’ve had our vaccinations, got our visas and we’re wearing our jungle boots! We’re very excited and ready to go.

2. How and when did you hear about the project?
It’s been a life-long dream but after we saw the movie ‘Born to be Wild‘ we did some internet research and found the positions on a website,

3. Is your Borneo Orangutan release program the project of an association?
If so, how and when did you apply for it?
We are working for the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) at their care centre in Tanjun Puting National Park in Borneo. We applied in June and had to answer some questionaires, provide resumes and references, and go through a couple of telephone interviews.

4. What does it take to go and help Orangutan? Are there any special requirements?
You need to know about wildlife, their behaviour and enrichment. Primate knowledge is preferable too. They need to be rehabilitated. Many have lost their mothers and need to learn how to survive in the wild. It can take up to 8 or 9 years! We help the orangutans learn how to survive on their own and release them into protected forest.

5. How long are you going to stay in Borneo?
We’re staying there for 6 months. It’s one of the longer long-term volunteer positions.

6. Do you already know what kind of activities you’ll be involved in?
Not the specifics. Mostly, we’ll be directly working with the orangutans and taking them out to play in the forest during the day. We watch and take notes and hope they are learning the right behaviours so that they can survive by themselves in the wild.

7. Are board and lodging provided?orangutan international foundation
We pay $250US per month for our board and food. We will stay with a local family.

8. Will you get any salary for your help?
If not, is there any way we could help by giving a donation?
No, we don’t get a salary. We have volunteered to help and must cover all our own costs. If you’d like to donate to us it would be great! It would help cover our accomodation, food and travel costs. You can also donate to the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI), it doesn’t help us but it helps the orangutans.

9. What will you do with the money you get from our donations? You’re not going to drink beers with primates, are you? ;)
Donations to us would help cover our costs of travel, food, accomodation, vaccinations, medicals and visas. Donations to the OFI would help protect forest for the orangutans and help release orphans back into the wild, it would also help with research. We have a donation page set up for OFI donations only. No beer.. unfortunately, but perhaps we can discuss the adventures and stories we have with wine when we visit Italy!

10. How and when did you hear about the Borneo Orangutan release program?
Rich is a zoologist and has been interested in orangutans for a long time, he tries to keep up to date on what’s going on. He first donated funds and adopted an orangutan 6 years ago. We found out about the release program from their website.

11. Have you had any other previous working experience with animals?
Rich has worked for the last 5 years with Australian wildlife and has quite a lot of experience. Mindy grew up on a farm and has volunteered in wildlife conservation.

12. Have you quit your current job? Would you do it again?
Yes. Rich is just about to finish up working as an Environment Ranger with Phillip Island Nature Parks. He’s been there for a year and worked with penguins, koalas, seals etc. Mindy is finishing up two jobs, working as a pharmacy assistant and visitor services officer.

About doing it again – We’re not sure yet. It’s a long time to not be working; we don’t have any serious commitments, like a mortgage or children, so it’s not so hard for us to commit. In the future, if things change, it might not be so easy.

13. Why did you make this decision?
It’s Rich’s dream! We love nature, orangutans and adventures. It’s something we’ll never forget.

14. A friend I have on Facebook asked if you could lend him some of your bravery. Do you think it is bravery what it gets to make such an experience?
It takes a little bit of bravery, a BIG sense for adventure and great compassion for nature. It also takes someone who is able to live in isolation and take an interest in a different culture.

15. Where can we follow your daily adventures? 
At the moment we have this blog . We’re thinking about setting up a website, too. We’re not sure how good our access to internet will be when we’re in Borneo, but we’ll try and keep you all updated!


Thanks Mindy and Rich for what you’re doing, and good luck!

To donate to the Orangutan Foundation, here’s the donation page. If you wish to donate to Rich and Mindy to cover their travel costs, contact me or write it in your comment and I’ll tell you how.

For the rest, wait for some news on their blog!

(Am I the only one who feels like quitting her job and leave for Borneo, now?)