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Orang utans at Sepilok

Listed under Volunteering Opportunities in Sandakan, Malaysia.

  • Photo of Orang utans at Sepilok
  • Photo of Orang utans at Sepilok
Photo of Orang utans at Sepilok
Photo by Alan McBride
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Like pandas, orang utans are very easy to feel love for, those big soulful eyes and human like faces cry out for our help, so, a life long animal lover, I couldn’t wait to take two months out of the daily cycle of my city life to spend some time getting back to nature with the orang utans in Sepliok, Malaysia.

Sepilok offers volunteers the opportunity to help rehabilitate injured, sick and orphaned orang utans and release them back into the wild. It’s a careful process where at first the animals are let out for only a few hours a day then are allowed to roam and come back for food if they need to – like orang utan day release the program call it – before they’re captured and moved away from the centre into the wild. Day visitors to the centre can see the animals in the day release program visit for a meal so if you’re unable to make a full time commitment you can still meet with these truly indescribably intelligent, and funny creatures.

The Sepilok program is very popular with volunteers, and people come from all over the world to donate their time and energy to these amazing, rare creatures in their beautiful natural habitats in the shrinking virgin rainforests of Borneo. As far as I’m aware you can only stay for two months, and only between strict periods. Volunteers follow an organised program where they’re first taught how properly to handle and relate to these creatures. Some of them have been badly mistreated by humans in the past so are nervous and require extra patience, and volunteers have to become aware that these are wild creatures that are being rehabilitated to go into the wild so you have to learn the appropriate level of affection to show and allow. That’s one of the hardest lessons to learn, the feeding and cleaning details are all much simpler and less heart wrenching to grasp. The reason for the minimum time commitment is that even the most calm and gentle person needs the right training.

While I was at the centre I, and my fellow volunteers, worked in the nursery with the wonderful orphans, from the babies who need feeding and care like human babies, to the more adventurous older orphans - one, Jaky, was a little terror full of energy and life who treated everyone he met as if they were a climbing frame and had a grip that I think was stronger than mine. I was also involved in surveying the grounds of the centre and the population, which was like an orienteering expedition into the jungle and in conducting nocturnal surveys – which is like camping out. There are many more menial duties, cleaning, preparing food and feeding animals, but over the two months I found the work rewarding and felt like I was making a real difference to the lives of these animals. I won’t say I didn’t cry when I left.

In Sepilok as well as learning about the world of these endangered creatures I also experienced life in another country, and worked with and developed strong ties with people from more countries still. I benefited from working with and for people who’ve been involved with the centre for years who were enthusiastic and encouraging and very generous to share their knowledge and understanding with me.

Of all the highs the highlight was the first time I managed to coax one of the young orphans up to the top of the rope, it was an amazing moment and I wont say I didn’t feel a bit Dian Fossey.

Written by  Karen Andrews.

Other expert and press reviews

“The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre”

Staying right beside the park, we stayed at the Sepilok Jungle Resort. Boardwalks twist through the grounds right next to the jungle. The next day it is a short walk to the gate where we were treated to a video explaining the centre and what it has accom… Read more...

Written by  Dave and Deb. Continue reading on Dave and Deb's Blog

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers


Dear sir or madam,

We are a spanish company, specialized in language courses.

We would like to know, if you can send us informations about your voluntary programs.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours faithfully,

1 Reply

Hi Hubert - World Reviewer is a travel review site and doesn't actually represent the Orang utan program, you'll have to contact them directly.

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