Category Archives: Volunteer Programme

The wonders of life – help save forests and orangutans!

Needed: 12 adventurous individuals for 6 weeks volunteer work in Borneo.

Your mission: to build a guard post that will strengthen the protection of a wildlife reserve that’s home to the endangered Bornean orangutan, gibbon, clouded leopard and thousands of other amazing species.

Photo above: Team of volunteers in the forests of Borneo

You must be healthy, fit and ready for a challenge. A sense of humour is a must and, unlike orangutans, you must be able to work and live in a group!

Find out more: email [email protected] or call 020 7724 2912

Photo above: Mother and infant orangutan by Ian Wood


Going palm-oil free for orangutans.

This special post has been written by the Orangutan Foundation’s supporters.
 “My name is Jacha Potgieter and with my wife we run a coffee shop in Betws-y-Coed, north Wales  (  


Jacha cafe

 I visited Borneo in 2008 on a volunteer programme to work with the organisation and I became aware of the impact of palm oil issues.  On returning home I was shocked to see how many products contained palm oil and resolved to seek out only palm oil free goods.  Myself, Sue (our cook) and my wife started researching and sourcing palm oil free goods.  It was not an easy journey but we achieved a lot, especially  persuading the local bakery and major food wholesalers to be aware of the issue.  We are now palm oil free except for sustainable goods of which there are only four products and we plan to replace these in due course.  We make our own ice-cream.  We also support Louis Barnett from Chokolit whose products are also palm oil free. There is a permanent exhibition and information on orangutans and the foundation in the coffee shop gallery.

Jacha cafe and artwork

 This is a very hard won achievement after two years of research and non-compromise but we have enjoyed the challenge.”

 The Orangutan Foundation praises all of your hard work and efforts and is extremely grateful for your ongoing support of our work. Also, thank you for the chocolates that you sent – they arrived today and were absolutely delicious -yum!

 Here is another contribution from Sue, a supporter of the Orangutan Foundation and Jacha’s…

 “This Halloween, Gwen and Jasha Potgieter kindly let us use the outside of their coffee shop to raise  money for the Orangutan Foundation. After a wet start, children and adults alike enjoyed a great time carving pumpkins, guessing the weight of the giant pumpkin and having their faces painted! We raised £185.22 on the day adding to the grand total of £900.00 raised by them this year. It was such a success that we have already been asked back next year!!”

 Please consider supporting the work of the Orangutan Foundation by donating to our 20th Anniversary Appeal.

 Thank you!

An adventure of a lifetime


18th September – 30th October


 This programme offers volunteers a unique opportunity to visit the remote area of Danau Sentarum National Park (DSNP). DSNP is a wetland of interconnected lakes surrounded by peat swamp forest in the upper Kapuas river basin, the most threatened habitat remaining for orangutans in Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan). The Sentarum lakes and surrounding peat swamp wetlands are unique in Kalimantan, as they are Borneo’s oldest inland peat swamps at 12,000 years old. This really is the heart of Borneo. Threats in the area are the rapid conversion of orangutan habitat to oil palm plantations, as well as hunting, forest fires and illegal logging.

This project will focus on constructing a guard post to protect critical areas inside the park. There will be chiseling, cementing, sawing, nailing and hammering, plus some digging, so this is no mean feat but crucial to ensure orangutans can have a life in the wild where they belong.

The situation facing orangutans in the wild is critical. All populations are under threat from habitat loss caused by conversion of tropical forest to commercial plantations, primarily oil palm, plus illegal logging and mining.

 Working as part of a team of up to 12 volunteers, this 6-week programme gives unrivalled experience of essential conservation work in one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Our programme promises exciting opportunities for adventurous individuals to participate in conservation fieldwork that really makes a difference.

Only 3 spaces left! For more information please contact Cat Gibbons at the Orangutan Foundation on 020 7724 2912 or email [email protected]

Participants must be over 18 years old.

Don’t bank on deforestation help prevent it instead!

After the success of their campaign against Nestlé, who were sourcing unsustainable palm oil from companies including Sinar Mas, Greenpeace are now taking on the bank HSBC – read more and take action here.

Greenpeace reveal that HSBC are providing financial services to Sinar Mas, which has expanded its operations around the Danau Sentarum National Park (DSNP) in West Kalimantan. The Orangutan Foundation’s Volunteer Programme will be working in Danau Sentarum with the Indonesian N.G.O., Titian Foundation, this September for six weeks.

Danau Sentarum Scenery from Lanjak Hill in Wet Season

The wetlands of Danau Sentarum © Titian Foundation

DSNP is a wetland of interconnected lakes surrounded by peat swamp forest in the upper Kapuas river basin, the most threatened habitat remaining for orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus) in Indonesia. The Sentarum lakes and surrounding peat swamp wetlands are unique in Kalimantan, as they are Borneo’s oldest inland peat swamps at 12,000 years old. DSNp is also listed as a Ramsar [Convention on Wetlands of International Importance] site. Threats in the area are rapid conversion of orangutan habitat to oil palm plantations as well as, forest fires, illegal logging and hunting.

Orang in tree with mother_I9W8622

Bornean female orangutan and infant © Brian Matthews

If you want to get involved with our crucial conservation work then please contact us on [email protected] or telephone 00 44 (0)20 7724 2912.

Volunteer with Orangutan Foundation in Borneo!

I have been running the Orangutan Foundation’s Volunteer Programme for 4 years now, and remain proud to be doing so. I have visited the Programme a couple of times since my first participation in 2001 and I am as blown away by the experience now as I was then!

Originally set up as a method of bolstering our field operations whilst offering individuals the opportunity to actively help and experience a unique lifestyle in Borneo, it continues to be an unbridled success. Its achievements to-date include; a number of guard and patrol posts in Tanjung Puting National Park and the Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve; an orangutan release camp; provision of clean drinking water to villages in the Belantikan Hulu region; and the Pondok Ambung Tropical Forest Research Station , to name but a few!

Volunteer Team 1 - 2009

2009 Volunteer Team with Orangutan Foundation staff

One of the things I love most about the Programme is its transparency – all money paid by volunteers goes into their project that year, paying not only for the volunteer food and accommodation but also for the Indonesian staff, work tools and materials. Oh, and it is brilliant fun for everyone who takes part! The fact that we have had the same staff involved for years and that a significant number of volunteers return to Borneo speaks for itself.

2010 sees the Volunteer Programme enter its 11th year and we continue with our winning formula – teams of 12 people go out for a 6 week period and live a basic lifestyle, helping with manual labour and construction work to aid our field operations.

Camp Mangkung orangutan release site

Camp Mangkung, built and painted by volunteers in 2008 

In 2008, the Volunteer Programme built the Lamandau reserve’s 6th orangutan release camp, called Camp Mangkung. It consists of a kitchen and storeroom, accommodation rooms, office and orangutan holding cage. Mangkung was recently designated as an official site for the release of translocated orangutans – meaning that wild healthy orangutans directly threaten by habitat destruction (eg from a palm oil plantation, like female orangutan Memes), can be moved and will be released at Camp Mangkung.

During the dry season or times of low rain, river access to Camp Mangkung is impossible and so we need to build a boardwalk so that we have reliable access to the site. This will be the focus of the 2010 project – thus there will be high levels of chiselling, sawing and hammering….plus some digging!

Volunteer from Team 2 2009 with a little helping paw!

John a volunteer from Team 2 in 2009 with a little helping paw!

If you want to spend a unique 6 weeks doing something worthwhile for orangutan conservation, make friends for life and see orangutans in the wild, then why not make this the year to join us?

Bornean orangutan in tree

What all the hard work is for!

Dates for the 2010 Programme are:

Team 1 – 1st May to 12th June

Team 2 – 26th June to 7th August

Please note that it is extremely likely that we will be running a 3rd team from, 21st August. This will be confirmed within the next couple of weeks on our website.

Further information may be found in the 2010 Volunteer Programme Brochure on our website.

Elly – Orangutan Foundation Development and Volunteer Co-ordinator

Orangutan Foundation Volunteer Programme

You’re probably aware that the Orangutan Foundation runs a Volunteer Programme (see Categories for past posts) 

This year’s programme has been different in that we are working closely with our partners Yayorin on a water purification project in the Belantikan Arut region of Central Kalimantan. Belantikan is home to the largest remaning population of orangutans in an unprotected area and is a biodiversity hotspot. 

Our strategy involves community empowerment, education and agricultural management to help villagers protect their forests. This year’s Volunteer Programme fits in by working with the local communities and further improving our relationship with them, whilst gaining their respect and providing villagers with a cleaner, safer water-source.  Each team will work in a different village. At each village, a natural spring has been identified as an alternative source to the river which is currently used for transport, bathing, washing and as a toilet. The teams build a dam to harness the spring water and then a pipe system takes it down to the village.

Volunteers return to camp after a hard days work

Climbing back up to the jetty after a hard days work 

Team 1 ended on 13th June and the village of Nanga Matu (home to Yayorin’s basecamp) now has taps providing clean water from a natural hillside spring on the other side of the river. The construction was no mean feat and massive thanks go to the hardworking volunteers and Volunteer Co-ordinators who made the project succeed.   Team 2 is already well into their work in the village of Bintang Mengalih and I was there to see the project commence. The team are living in a small community house where personal space is non- existent, and the movements and activities of us visitors is of most interest to the locals.

Volunteers are treated to a traditional party at one of the villages 

Volunteers are treated to a traditional party by a local village 

Whilst there, I encountered leeches, a scorpion, poisonous millipedes and lots of peat. Bathing is in a nearby river and we dug a long-drop toilet behind the accommodation. Before work began we had to go the village hall and formally meet the village head and some local villagers.

Village children keen to “hang out” with volunteers 

Local children were keen to “hang out” with the volunteers. 

The village were so appreciative of our work that they provided us with four local people to help on the project. They really were very excited and grateful about the work of Orangutan Foundation.  By 8th August Bintang Mengalih will have clean water to drink at the turn of a tap!!


Elly (UK Volunteer Co-ordinator)

Volunteer for orangutans

Recently we’ve received a few comments enquiring about volunteer work with orangutans or other great apes. The Orangutan Foundation’s Volunteer Programme offers individuals the chance to become involved in conservation fieldwork and see ex-captive and, hopefully, wild orangutans. The work is of manual construction/ labouring nature but it is vital to our conservation work and carried out in orangutan habitat. There are still a couple of places remaining for this year’s programme, which will be based in the Belantikan Arut region of Indonesian Borneo. The duration of the programme is six weeks.

All participants must be a member of the Orangutan Foundation, at least 18 years of age, in good health and prepared to undertake manual work. Living conditions are basic and very remote. The cost of taking part in the programme is £730. This payment covers all accommodation, food, and materials for the duration of the programme but does not include international and internal travel to the project site. It should be noted that particpants will not have direct contact with orangutans. For more information on the programme please see our 2009 Volunteer Programme brochure on our website. If you have any further questions or would like to apply then please contact ELLY at the Orangutan Foundation office ([email protected] or 0044 (0)207 724 2912) for more detailed information.

Megan, as you’re 12 years old you are too young for our programme. Don’t be disheartened though as there is still a lot you can do to help! Consider organising a fundraising or awareness event at your school, social club, or with your friends. Maybe you could ask a relative to foster an orangutan for you as birthday present. Become involved with a local conservation or wildlife charity who may have volunteer days you can become involved with. As we discovered with our Orange for Orangutan Day – every little act helps to make a difference. (For your diary: the next Orange for Orangutan Day is Thursday 12th November 2009 and information will be available on our website soon)

Kampung Konservasi January Blog – Sustainable livelihoods for communities living close to areas of orangutan habitat.


One of the alternative income-generating activities that Kampung Konservasi offers the local communities is low-impact fish farming. On Kampung Konservasi ground, we have three very simple fish ponds, which are – literally – just “big holes” on the ground.

Fishpond - Kampung Konservasi

Fishpond 2 - Kampung Konservasi

Fishpond 3 - Kampung Konservasi

The three different styles of simple fishponds demonstrated by Kampung Konservasi.

Because our ground is naturally “wet” (mostly peat swamp), we do not have to do much to regulate the water flows. We just worked with the land contour and designed our ponds so that they are as low maintenance as possible. This way, local farmers can easily duplicate our methods and feel interested to try because it does not require much commitment from their part. To fortify the walls, we used simple materials such as bamboos, sand bags and polybags filled with vegetable seedlings.

We then put two species of fish in our ponds: one is nila, a consumption fish species that originally came from Africa but has become very common all over the world; another one is patin, a local Kalimantan species that has also become a very common consumption fish species. Both have been doing very well in our ponds, although our patin grow a little better and faster in semi-peat swamp water.

Fish harvesting

Encouraging community participation and the uptake of this low-impact fish farming.

Patin - common species of fish found in Kalimantan.

Patin – common species of fish found in Kalimantan, Borneo

Just recently Kampung Konservasi decided to empty its fish ponds because we wanted to fix the walls. We did not expect that there will be so much fish! In only this one harvest, we managed to sell 56 kilograms of fish to the local housewives and restaurants. In 2008 alone, our alternative fish farm produced more than 200 kilograms of fish and sold well in the local market. Once again, Kampung Konservasi have proven to the local communities that fish farming is another potential income-generating activity for this area.


Sally (Yayorin)

Volunteering in Belantikan

The Belantikan Hulu ecosystem in Central Kalimantan is a priority conservation area for Orangutan Foundation and their partner Yayorin. The still surviving dense forest there is home to an incredible diversity of species, including the largest population of wild orangutans outside of a protected area. Belantikan Conservation Programme focuses on both researching and cataloguing the wildlife of the area and working with the local communities to develop ways to maintain their traditional lifestyles without having a detrimental impact on the forest ecosystem. As part of Yayorin’s capacity building educational programme Catherine Burns and myself, former Orangutan Foundation volunteers, travelled to Belantikan to work with Yayorin as English teachers in the schools of the villages of Nanga Matu, Kahingai and Bintang Mengalih.

Orangutan Foundation invited me to blog about our time there and the ongoing struggle to save this precious part of the Borneo forest. You can read my account of our experience over the next week.


David Hagan

Thank you and Happy New Year!

Thank you Mike T. and Matthew K. for your donations in support of our work – a good start to 2009.

We are delighted to begin this year by bringing you a really interesting blog from David Hagan, a committed volunteer of Orangutan Foundation and our partners, Yayorin. David and his fellow volunteer Catherine Burns spent a month teaching English in remote village schools of the Belantikan Hulu forests, Central Kalimantan (Borneo). We hope you will enjoy reading David’s blog, which will be posted throughout this week.

Thank you for your continued support and interest,

Cathy – Orangutan Foundation