A specialised program made available to local and foreign universities, this project is designed to offer unique opportunities for onsite education and training in the practical aspects of conservation, management and field research methodology. As a participant on the project, you will work as an intern at the Orangutan Conservation Centre, carrying out a range of activities aimed at saving the lives of these magnificent, gentle creatures. Most participants on the program are undergraduate students studying Conservation Biology, Zoology, Veterinary Medicine or Animal Science courses.
As the project focuses on Orangutan conservation, you can expect to carry out tasks involving husbandry, construction and maintenance, enrichment and organic food sourcing. Your experiences at the zoo will be extremely beneficial to both you and the Orangutans as you support them in their natural habitat. You will receive guidance from a trained coordinator and will work closely with the established team of local staff at the centre.
Located in Taiping, one of the oldest towns in the state of Perak, Malaysia, the Orangutan Conservation Centre is set on a 35-acre island, within a 7000-acre freshwater lake and surrounded by ancient limestone hills. At the sanctuary, which is a referral centre for the endangered Bornean Orangutan, there are opportunities for visitors to develop their knowledge and understanding of Orangutans by exposing them to a varied education about their conservation. This includes aspects of primatology, such as behaviour and ecology, providing quality care in captivity, veterinary medicine and conservation biology. Working in conjunction with primatolgists and conservation biologists, the project aims to continually develop its research into the Bornean Orangutan.
Orangutans which are homed at the Sanctuary, are rescued from illegal ownership, and sometimes trading situations. They stay on a temporary basis while being rehabilitated in preparation for returning to their natural habitat. On arrival, the Orangutans are assessed for their suitability to be returned to the wild and then entered onto a carefully designed program which treats, cares for and rehabilitates them.
As well as its importance to the conservation of Orangutans, the Sanctuary is recognised as a successful site for training, development and enhancing the students’ knowledge and understanding. As a result, places on the program are in high demand, attracting applications from within Malaysia and across the world for both education and research projects.
During the tin mining boom, Perak flourished and as a result, was under Dutch and British Colonial rule for a period of time during the 17th and 19th centuries. On arrival at the site, you will have some time to be introduced to the local culture and learn some words and phrases of the local language.
It aims to continue developing the facility to provide education and training to students, in both in-situ and ex-situ conservation involving the Orangutan and their habitats.
Your Role – General Information
As participation on the project involves physically challenging activities in the heat and humidity of a tropical climate, you need to have a good level of fitness. Your days will be varied, requiring you to carry out a range of activities. Although you will be provided with a schedule for work, it is important to bear in mind that the nature of the Sanctuary can often result in unpredictable disruptions to routines. For this reason, you will need to have an adaptable approach to your working day and the possibility of changes in priority due to unforeseen circumstances.
Please also remember that you will be new to the activities at the zoo, and while you will undoubtedly arrive with an abundance of enthusiasm and energy, which will be a massive asset, it is essential that you adjust to the pace that tasks are completed at the project. Your contribution will have a hugely positive impact on the zoo but do not expect the world of animal conservation to make huge strides forward in the short time that you will be there. It is fair to say that the work ethic in Malaysia is vastly different to that of Western culture, please be prepared to embrace the cultural differences, resisting the urge to become frustrated with the established labour techniques.
It would be beneficial to remember that:
Whilst at the sanctuary, you will be treated as a temporary staff member, expected to partake any tasks as required to maintain and develop the zoo. Just as all other staff members, you will be deployed to areas that of the zoo that are in need of assistance. It is also possible that you will be privileged to witness events that are usually only experienced by full-time members of staff.
Your Daily Work
As work at the project is varied, a schedule of work will be distributed to each group of volunteers. This is to ensure that each day will involve a different task. Regardless of the task, you will be carrying out strenuous, physical work in a tropical climate so you must be in good health and have a good level of fitness. You must be prepared for anything!
Construction: Construction tasks could involve building climbing structures for the Orangutans; digging out ponds for crocodiles, snakes and turtles; creating an effective drainage system; building pathways to create easier access routes around the centre for visitors and keepers; assisting a local contracting team with the building of new enclosures.
Maintenance: Due to the natural environment, man-made structures need regular maintenance to avoid them rusting, rotting or being damaged by termites. This kind of work will involve extensive cleaning, painting and repairs.
Enrichment: Enrichment is an essential element to maintain the mental and physical welfare of the variety of species kept at the zoo. Volunteers are responsible for this to happen at the zoo, so it is one of the most important roles you will carry out there. Preventing the animals from becoming stressed, bored and consequently, sick, relies on your imaginative ability to create a stimulating and safe environment for them.
Husbandry: In basic terms, this refers to the cleaning, feeding and general caring for the animals at the zoo. There are clear routines and rules that you will need to follow, for yours, the animals, and others’ safety, when carrying out feeding and cleaning activities.
General best practice guidelines you will be expected to follow are listed below. Please respect these at all times as they are in place for good reasons. The project is in the process of creating a model for tourism and volunteering where human and animal interaction is kept to a minimum while keeping the impact and educational value at a high level.
Your first day in Taipang, Perak will provide you with opportunities to learn about the local culture and customs through a range of organised activities.
Tuesday to Friday
Your voluntary work as an intern begins on Tuesday. Each day will involve physically challenging work which is exacerbated by the heat and humidity of the tropical climate. Be prepared to carry out any kind of role as the need arises. The variety of tasks could include husbandry, construction work, enrichment and maintenance. It is important to note that while interns are not usually given the “best” jobs, your contribution at the project will be invaluable and you will be deployed where your skills and abilities will be most useful.
Saturday and Sunday
You can enjoy free time over the weekend to relax, explore and regenerate in preparation for continuing your work in the following week.
Monday to Friday
This week will mirror the schedule of Tuesday to Friday in week 1. Once again be prepared for the physically demanding role of carrying out active work in the tropical climate.
Your experience on the project end today.