Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Welcome to APE TOWN ; JILL PEAKE Takes a Month out of Her Year to Volunteer on an Orangutan Reserve in Borneo

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Welcome to APE TOWN ; JILL PEAKE Takes a Month out of Her Year to Volunteer on an Orangutan Reserve in Borneo

Article excerpt

LYING in bed, shattered after a second hard day cutting bamboo, and with almost a month still to go, I wondered if I was out of my depth.

I was a paying 'guest' at the Samboja Lestari Lodge in the depths of the Borneo tropical rainforest.

It had always been a dream to spend some time at an orangutan sanctuary, and here I was at last, after a winter's planning and an arduous journey from Manchester, via Singapore and Jakarta, to Balikpapan in the Indonesian part of Borneo.

But I hadn't expected the work of the volunteer to be quite so hard.

Admittedly, at 64, I was giving most of my fellow campers a couple or three decades - in one case, even four - but at least they all appeared to be finding it hard graft as well.

The staff were delightful, the accommodation adequate, the food tolerable, especially if you liked rice, and we'd even managed, at this early stage, to see a couple of orangutans from a distance.

But could I handle the workload in the 35 [degrees]C heat and humidity? Needless to say, it got better, although the work stayed much the same throughout, but cold showers several times a day and the banter with my fellow 'inmates', made for a memorable month.

We arrived at the beginning of March, the first month that volunteers were back at the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Project this year, and we met volunteer coordinator Kate. One of our main activities was to help finish a new special care unit. This will eventually house up to 40 orangutans and will also open up a much larger area for other orangutans to have more comfortable living conditions.

The special care unit will make the lives of these gentle giants so much better and, as volunteers, we felt we were making a real difference. We learned how to build hammocks from fire-hose material and rope bridges in the extensive cages where the orangutans are to be housed.

Whilst the new special care unit was the priority, the orangutan islands - created to give them an authentic, yet safe, environment for their rehabilitation - were also being worked on by the volunteers.

On Island 1 the biggest task was the building of platforms for the orangutans to practise their climbing skills on. …

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