About the Orangutan Conservation Project
The Orangutan Conservation volunteer project was established to study, protect and restore some of the most important rainforest in Borneo. The project works alongside universities and government partners to implement lasting conservation projects. This region of Borneo has since been in the forefront of orangutan conservation efforts with the surveys having identified the largest lowland orangutan population in the world. The scientific research taking place is creating the basis for further forest protection and management with volunteers being part of the activities to contribute to ongoing conservation efforts. Volunteers can join in two different sites, on either the regular Forest Conservation Volunteer programme or the Forest & Wildlife Research expedition.
Forest Conservation Volunteer Programme
The volunteer programme runs for 3 weeks in separate groups of 10 people. During the first week of the programme, volunteers will be introduced to the forest and receive an orientation on all the research and conservation activities, which includes orangutan nest surveys, camera trap surveys, butterfly and dragonfly ecological monitoring and peat-swamp habitat restoration techniques. For the following weeks, volunteers will assist with various conservation and education projects, which will vary subject to weather conditions and necessity.
These may include:
- Learn about the project’s long- and short-term biodiversity monitoring studies, including determining primate density and mapping forest cover
- Support long-term conservation activities, such as seedling replanting or rebuilding the nursery in camp
- Get involved in our environmental education activities, such as teaching local children about biodiversity and conservation or building a forest classroom for future rainforest field trips
- Join expeditions to remote campsites to monitor habitat and biodiversity changes over time to better inform our conservation initiatives
- Assist tasks that are essential to keeping the research site in good working order, such as tagging our research transects or painting camp
Forest & Wildlife Research Volunteer Expedition
The 3-week volunteer research expedition differs slightly from the other volunteer programme. On this expedition, volunteers will work alongside field scientists on all of the research activities and will gain an in-depth understanding of the projects. This is the first ever scientific research programme in this habitat-type and region of Borneo. Flexibility is thus essential as the project learns more, and direct their research plans in accordance with their findings.
There are two primary field studies taking place. The first is to describe the biodiversity. This has a special focus on the density and distribution of orangutans and gibbons. As these are flagship species, protected under Indonesian law, and understanding where these apes are abundant will help prepare a habitat protection plan. The second study is to describe and map the different habitat-types found there. From the tall kerangas to the dense and swampy peat forest.
Volunteers will assist with the following research projects:
- Orangutan density and distribution surveys using nest counts and direct sightings
- Gibbon density and distribution surveys using triangulation of their morning great calls
- Forestry research. Involves establishing and measuring tree plots and mapping these throughout the study area. We will map the extent of the giant ulin, or ironwood, tree which holds special significance in local culture.
- Camera traps will be used to survey the region’s carnivores, with hopes to find the elusive clouded leopard, bay cat and marbled cat.
- Fruit-feeding butterfly surveys to monitor habitat quality and describe seasonal changes in the environment.
- Building a species list of all wildlife encountered, from fish to mammals and everything in between.
Volunteers do not need to have prior experience in the field. Just a willingness to help and a sincere interest in wildlife and forest conservation. Volunteers must be 18 years of age or above. Have a good working knowledge of English language. This is a physically demanding programme in a humid, equatorial environment. However, it is a great opportunity for active individuals who want to get their hands dirty while helping save the rainforest!
It is essential that volunteers are physically and mentally fit and able to cope in such environment. This can include some annoyances and hazards such as bugs, mosquitoes, thorny plants and biting ants, through to snakes, spiders and scorpions. Volunteers must be adaptable and flexible. Sometimes working long hours with early starts at 4am. Volunteers thus need to be positive and outgoing with good social skills. Also fit well into a team, both in the forest work and in the social life of the camp.