This is an opportunity to join the Wildlife Rescue Centre in Java, Indonesia, providing care for orangutans and other orphaned and injured wildlife, who are preparing, where possible, for rehabilitation and eventual release back to the wild.
The rapid destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests has resulted in hundreds of orangutans and other critically endangered species losing their homes and this wonderful wildlife rescue centre offers these animals in need a safe home. The orphaned young in the rainforests are often sold into the illegal exotic pet trade, condemned to spend their lives in cramped cages, eating unsuitable diets and performing dangerous and demeaning tricks for human entertainment.
The Wildlife Centre is a non-profit facility that takes in animals confiscated from illegal ownership under the Protected Wildlife Law and, wherever possible, prepares them for rehabilitation. Those who cannot be returned to the wild due to health or behavioural conditions may make the Centre their permanent home.
The Centre is not a zoo and does not exhibit the animals to the public except under controlled conditions for educational programmes. Volunteers have a unique opportunity to get close to the orangutans, to observe and interact with them and contribute to their welfare. There are currently seven orangutans living at the Centre, including an adorable, inquisitive juvenile born in May 2013 and volunteers get the incredible opportunity to build a real bond with these fantasic and very clever animals. Volunteers also have the opportunity to work with other primates such as gibbons and macaques, as well as the variety of birds, reptiles and small mammals that make up the Centre’s population of around 200 magnificent creatures. In a rural area close to a traditional village, volunteers also get to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Centre’s many unofficial residents as you enjoy Indonesia’s rich biodiversity.
The Centre enjoys a close relationship with the local village, which is home to 25 out of the 31 staff members. Not only does this provide employment opportunities for the villagers, it also helps to spread awareness of environmental protection and animal welfare at this critical local level. To further this educational role and provide a valuable cultural exchange for both locals and volunteers, the Centre offers ‘Conservation English’ classes for their staff and a club for local children. Volunteers will also take part in these fun and informal sessions as well as visiting a local family for a traditional Javan dinner – a delicious way to truly experience life in the village. If the orangutans haven’t melted your heart completely then the warmth and hospitality of the local people surely will.
Yogyakarta is the cultural capital of Java and there are plenty of things to see and do on your days off, including a visit to the Sultan’s Palace, Prambanan temple or Borobudur (the world’s largest Buddhist temple), exploreing Mount Merapi (an active volcano), cycleing through local markets and lush rice paddies or take in some traditional gamelan music and shadow puppetry to name just a few.
Shadow an Animal Keeper
Working with a different keeper and group of animals each day, volunteers will experience the full spectrum of wildlife at the Centre. They will participate in cage cleaning, feeding, food preparation, maintenance and cage enrichment activities and spend a morning with Centre's vet – the perfect opportunity to observe and learn about the animals and ask the vet any questions they might have.
Building Cages for the Wildlife at the Centre
Building good, sturdy and spacious cages is essential for the animals' well being. Thus whenever needed, volunteers will be assisting the animal keepers to build cages for the animals.
Kids Club English (for kids)
Every Wednesday there is a Kids Club English class for all children in nearby villages. The class has a local teacher who organises games and learning activites for the children to encourage them to learn English as their third language. This is a fun interactive session where volunteers help to organise games with the teacher to play with the children. Don’t worry if you’ve never taught before – you won’t have to teach alone and your on-site facilitator will support you through every step.
One of the Centre’s newest projects is to take English classes to the community. The class is run by a local teacher who helps many youths (normally aged 15 – 30) to learn conversational English through fun interactive games. Volunteers help as a “native speaker” to encourage the students to learn their third language.
In the last five years the Centre has released four eagles back into the wild in Java, many close to the Centre. Other animals have been translocated to release programmes on their native islands. Volunteers will have the opportunity to visit a previous animal release site and learn about the release programme that the Centre runs.
The centre is focused on building a strong positive lasting relationship with the local villagers. They do this by engaging in a number of cultural activities including a traditional gamelan (music) class and batik (wax art) class in a nearby local village. They also join traditional dances and performances near the village when they are performed. The Centre also holds informal sports sessions in the village to encourage locals to interact with people from different cultures and practice their language skills. This is also a fantastic opportunity for volunteers to learn some simple Indonesian and make some new friends.
On a Friday evening volunteers are welcomed into the home of a staff member from the local village where they will enjoy traditional, home-cooked Javan cuisine and maybe even try their hand at preparing some. The smiles are infectious and the delicious food just keeps on coming - a fantastic cultural experience for volunteers!
Following arrival, airport transfer, orientation and safety briefing, a typical day will look like this:
||Breakfast and Briefing
||Meet the Keeper - Prepare for the day's work ahead
||Coffee Break and Snacks
||Enrichment Activities or Maintenance Activities
||Working with the Keepers or on Enrichment Activities
||Kids Club/English/Community Education/Cultural Engagement/Release Site
Note: An individual daily schedule, including free days for sightseeing, will be created based on length of stay and the animals’ needs at the time.
Profiles of Some of Animals
Beni and Boni – are both adult male orangutans, rescued from private owners. They have learned unnatural behaviours from their former captors – Beni ‘begs’ for food by cupping his hands and Boni sweeps and cleans the floor of his cage, as he was taught to clean his owner’s house and wash his car. Beni was kept in a cage so small that he couldn’t stand up and has developed a hunch. For these reasons, they will remain at the Centre as they would not survive in the wild.
With his fine, thick coat and gentle eyes, Boni is the resident charmer, but he knows how to throw a tantrum when he doesn’t get attention! Beni is the shy orangutan, generally placid but with hidden depths – nobody really knows what he is thinking.
Gorgon and Dedek – were kept by a police officer in Semarang, Central Java who had a mini-zoo in his residential complex. He used to take them around on his motorcycle and feed them candies. Together since infancy, Gorgon and Dedek are like brothers and can therefore share a cage, although like brothers their play fights can often seem pretty rough. When they came to the Centre in 2006, Dedek was diagnosed with an infection which stunted his growth. Nursed back to health by the vet, he doesn’t let his size stop him making mischief. Gorgon is the smartest orangutan and the most stubborn – he keeps his keepers on their toes trying to clean his cage!
Ucok, Joko and Si Mungil – are the Centre’s resident orangutan family. Ucok and Joko were kept at a restaurant in Solo, Central Java where they lived in a narrow cage, ate an unhealthy diet of rice and cooked foods and smoked cigarettes to amuse customers. Brought to the Centre in 2011 they had to adapt to an orangutan’s diet of fruit and vegetables to prepare for rehabilitation. But as the time to return to their homeland of Borneo approached, it turned out Ucok was pregnant and in May 2013, Si Mungil (the tiny one) was born. With support from the vet and animal keepers, Ucok is raising her own baby which is very rare for orangutans born in captivity. Mungil is a healthy baby girl with her mother’s beautiful eyes, who grows more inquisitive day by day. Meanwhile, poor Joko has had to move out to give mum and baby their space and he misses playing with his former mate. A very friendly orangutan, Joko loves to interact with others and enjoys playing catch or having his back scratched with a stick. Don’t stand too close though – he is extremely quick and strong and always looking for new toys to steal!
*Please Note that cages for many of the animals are small and not intended as permanent homes – the Centre receives no external funding and must do what they can with limited resources. Every effort is made to continually improve the facilities and future plans include the world’s first ‘Orangudome’ – designed to house up to 200 homeless orangutans in a replica of their natural environment. Your presence at the Centre not only enriches the animals’ lives, but your financial support helps to improve the future for these wonderful animals.