Your Role in Kinabatangan

Why Does This Project Need Volunteers?

Conservation work requires a lot of hard work, money, passion and determination. Throughout the course of this project you will be involved with conservation activities that help monitor orangutan, pygmy elephant and other wildlife numbers. This increases our knowledge of species numbers and potential conflicts which can then be tackled, helping the conservation cause.

Tourism also creates a financial incentive for the local community to protect their wildlife and habitat. By creating a tourist economy in the area we can help persuade the local decision-makers to change their policies and help protect endangered animals and environments (such as the orangutans, sun bears etc).

What You'll Do:

You will help monitor the numbers and patters of various animals, including orangutans and pygmy elephants. These activities will often be conducted from a boat as you cruise along the river and, whilst we cannot guarantee that you will see a pygmy elephant, most of the groups who have undertaken this project have had the magical experience of sighting these mysterious animals.

You will also work with the community - a local tribe called the 'Orang Sungai' (People of the River). They are a very gentle people who live along the river bank. Educating the community and providing them with economic motivation for conservation is one of the best ways of protecting local wildlife. You will have the opportunity to work with local school children providing them with an education in the importance of conservation.

One of the foremost ways we can preserve the local environment is with re-forestation. Part of your time on this trip will therefore be spent planting new trees and tending to the pygmy elephant and orangutan habitat. This is vital to ensure the survival of these wonderful animals.

Note: It is at the discretion of your programme facilitator to amend and change some of these routines and the times they are carried out. This is a guide, not a definitive programme with exact times. Life in Malaysia is not of the same standards as what you are used to at home.

What skills do you need on this placement in Borneo?

Volunteers should love animals, especially orangutans, and be willing to work hard. The work is physical and the temperature in Borneo high so volunteers should have a decent fitness level. All participants should be able to speak good English and be able to work as part of a team. Previous experience with animals or research knowledge is especially welcomed.

Where does my money go?

The cost of your trip covers three main areas;

1. administration and marketing
2. your accommodation, food and transportation, and the staffing of the volunteer activities
3. the orangutans

The administration and marketing are essential to the running of any project and ensures that you can find the project, you are well prepared for the trip, that you can have questions answered and the whole things works well.

Getting you safely to the project, ensuring you get fed, giving you a room at the project site and staffing the project is the other chunk of spending. This makes your experience enjoyable and ensures you work most effectively when you are at the center.

The remainder funds the orangutans, and the other animals, at the center. Your money helps to purchase materials, resources, medicines, food, pay for staff and any releases. The project exists because of you.

Where does my donation go?

Donations are spent on:

1. Enrichment - food (food parcels and a wide variety of different interesting foods) and physical enrichment (like hammocks and rope swings)

2. Construction - on materials and tools for getting orangutans out of cages and maintaining existing outdoor enclosures (everything from spades, to cement, to wheelbarrows, to nuts and bolts)

3. Reforestation - helping to create more species diverse forest by planting primary rainforest species under the pioneer tree canopy ( such as dipterocarpaceae, fabaceae and malvaceae) in certain areas. Also, we plant up species where we create destruction during the building process, such as recently when a digger dug out the island moats.

What is the food like on the placement?

Expect varied, fresh and local village cuisine. The meals will predominantly be made up of rice and varying degrees of spice. Vegetarians will find there is enough diversity to suit their tastes.

Will I get direct contact with the wildlife?

No. We do not allow direct contact because humanization is counter-productive to rehabilitation. Released orangutans that are used to humans may approach human habitations, risking injury or death, and are more likely to attack humans as they search for food and water. There is also the risk that due to the huge amount of shared genetic material between humans and orangutans diseases are transferred easily.

How do I go about booking my flights?

Please try to book your flights as far as possible in advance of your departure as flights become more expensive with time. We will provide you with some additional information in the 'Know Before You Go' pack that we send when we have received your deposit. If you have any difficulties feel free to contact our support team.

Do I need a mosquito net?

Volunteers sometimes leave behind their mosquito nets but we cannot guarantee availability so if in any doubt please bring your own.

Can I leave my old clothes behind?

If you are going to throw them away, please leave them with a project facilitator as old clothes are often appreciated by the local community

Code of Conduct

It cannot be overstated the attitude that you need to have for this project.

~ You will be living in a village set in the middle of a jungle amongst a local community. The communities are gentle people and expect you to make an effort to integrate with their way of life. You need to be able to do the following:

~ Bear in mind that you are heading into the Malaysian rainforest, living life according to its life cycles. It will take you a couple of days to adjust. You must adapt to this country and its ways, it is not for the rainforest to adapt to you;

~ Understand that facilities are basic; you are in the middle of a rainforest and are living according to what is available and practical to have in remote places – not according to town and city standards;

~ Habitat restoration work is tough. It is hot and humid and will often take about 3 three hours to complete each session. Take your time and drink lots of water and always remain with the group and your facilitator;

~ Remember that there are dangerous animals, poisonous insects and reptiles in the jungle. Do not tamper with any creature. Always check with your facilitator on the no go areas and safe areas;

~ If you wish to bring gifts for the local kids, please don't go overboard. Make them small: postcards, posters, stickers, marbles etc. We do not want them to grow to expect too much and start treating you more as a rich foreigner than a volunteer.

~ It is customary for locals to take off their shoes when entering a home; they are shy people who speak softly and are not raucous; they also dress conservatively. Please respect their traditions by dressing and behaving accordingly;

~ Take into account that even though rules and regulations govern behaviour during the programme and at the project site, unpleasant behaviour off project sites will also affect the programme due to the efficient grapevine within small communities.

Work Ethics

Tardiness is not acceptable. Your full commitment to the project and initiative will help the project maintain a good reputation within the village communities. Your attitude towards cultural sensitivities will also play a major role in building this relationship.

Volunteers who do not turn up for work or refuse to participate in the daily work routine will be issued a warning, after which, they may be removed from the project without compensation.

Food & Drinks

~ Meals will be prepared for you during your stay in the village. This is part of the project’s commitment to bring alternative and sustainable income sources to the local community you will be staying with;

~ Meals at local food stalls around the zoo are cheap and you can have a full meal for RM5 – RM12;

~ You will need money for bottled water and extras such as fruit juice or snacks throughout the programme;

~ Vegetarians can find vegetarian restaurants and eateries in towns or cities, but the range can be limited. Vegetarian restaurants are not found in villages but home-cooked meals can be tailored for vegetarians if informed well in advance;

~ Dietary concerns, i.e. vegetarian, pescetarian, allergies etc., must be highlighted to ApeMalaysia at least 1 month prior to the programme as supplies are not readily available and the villagers will have to prepare well in advance to cater to special dietary needs;

~ Alcoholic drinks are STRICTLY NOT ALLOWED on project sites, in the village, at the zoo or at any volunteer accommodation throughout the programme, unless specifically mentioned.


You will have the option to wash your own clothing in your bath or sink in your accommodation or pay to have your clothing laundered. Please agree to a price before handing your clothes over for washing.

Things to Pack

Malaysia is a country with lots and lots of rain with an annual rainfall of way over 2500mm in many areas. Humidity levels are extremely high at over 90%. If the sun is out, your clothes will dry in no time, but on a cloudy day, wet clothes, shoes, towels take very much longer to dry.

Bring clothes that are light and dry easily. For the jungle, bring clothes in colours that blend with the environment so as not to scare the wildlife. Heavy downpours in Malaysia are really buckets emptying themselves over you, so be prepared to get soaked to the skin when you least expect it! Light material long sleeves and long pants are advisable for tree planting activity due to the weeds, undergrowths and insects that may be encountered, also as protection against very early morning cool weather in the jungles.

Bring several changes of clothes that you don’t mind getting really mucky and dirty in as habitat restoration work involves clearing of undergrowth and weeds, mulching and tree planting. Other work at the school / in the community may involve painting, building or maintenance work.

Taking into consideration community sensitivities, clothes that cover the shoulders & cleavage and longer than the knees are a must when working in the village. The same is necessary when visiting local homes and schools.

This packing list is only a suggestion and by no means a complete or exhaustive list.

Must Haves

~ Photocopies of important papers such as passport, airline tickets and insurance documents

~ Money in Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)

~ Day bag / rucksack with waterproof cover or bring plastic bags

~ Waterproof bags to protect important items

~ T-shirts / shirts with sleeves

~ Long sleeve t-shirts / shirts / long pants

~ At least 1 set of light weight, fast drying clothes for the jungle

~ Good 100% waterproof raincoat / poncho

~ Hat / cap / head scarf for sun protection

~ Water bottle

~ Towel

~ Toiletries

~ Sun block lotion, sunscreen, after sun

~ Insect repellent (not citronella repellent, please invest in DEET)

~ Personal medication / medicines: Anti-histamines, basic first aid kit, diarrhoea medication, anti-inflammatory for ear, nose and throat problems, antibiotics, as recommended by your doctor

~ Flip-flops/sandals

~ Good walking shoes / boots and socks (flip flops and sandals are not allowed in the jungle or at work)

You might also want to bring......

~ Contact lenses (glasses sometimes steam up in heavy rain)

~ Games / books / iPods to keep yourself occupied during personal time

~ Wellington / gum boots. Work in Sabah is best carried out in wellington boots for Health and Safety reasons and the wet and muddy terrain we would be working in. You can borrow what the project site has or bring your own and leave them behind at the end of your programme. If your feet are size 10 or above you will need to bring a pair of wellington boots as larger sizes are not available in Malaysia. Size 10 and below are available in local shops.

~ Washing detergent for clothes; though this can be purchased on your way to the project site (you may have to wash your own clothes with cold water)

~ Camcorder / Camera with good zoom lens to film wildlife.

~ Camera, memory cards and batteries

~ Plastic hooks that are handy to hang things on

~ Sun glasses

~ Diary or note book

~ Torchlight

~ Binoculars

~ A small mirror (for sorting out your hair!)

Shopping Locally

Most items are available in Malaysia at comparative prices. Make your purchases on arrival day in Sandakan if you arrive early. You can get almost anything from the hundreds of little shops and large shopping malls dotted all around Kuala Lumpur but only limited items on Sandakan. Credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are abundant in Kuala Lumpur but may be more limited in Sandakan.

Shops in Sandakan carry limited items of western food and necessities. Cash is the preferred mode of transaction in small shops and some do not accept credit cards. Shops in the village carry extremely limited items and will only accept cash.

You can get the following items in Sandakan – not readily available in the village and certainly not in the jungle!

~ Washing detergent ~ Toiletries e.g. shampoo, shower gel, conditioners etc (same price as UK)~ Malaysian SIM cards and International phone cards ~ Cheap raincoats/ ponchos / umbrellas~ Cheap T-shirts and pants for working, covered shoes and flip-flops ~ Snacks – familiar ones such as Nestle, Cadbury and Hershey products, plus many kinds of locally produced crisps, biscuits and sweets~ Wellington boots!

The Gift of Knowledge

Participants may encounter and meet children in their daily lives living on site. ApeMalaysia is working on the setting up of a library for rural schools and its community. Good English / Malay books to stock their newly set up library would be welcomed. The students are aged between six and twelve years old. We would appreciate donations of any books suitable for primary school aged children. Particularly useful would be story books and books about animals and wildlife!

The school project involves interaction with children. Participants are generous and their friends also support by contributing school supplies. To prevent the children from expecting gifts, we recommend such items be carefully considered for project use and only selected items as prizes / incentives to encourage student participation. Previous participants have left crayons, paints and coloured papers under the care of WOX, for use during the education session. These supplies are used up very quickly and we encourage you to complement these to ensure long term positive outcomes for the education programme.

Please communicate with us if you are unsure of what kind of books / stationery to bring.

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