16 March update – Travellers Worldwide have ceased trading but the wildlife authorities in Sabah have not announced if the volunteering programme will not continue with a different company. See our statement here.
Travellers Worldwide is a British company which is refusing to stop the exploitation of Critically Endangered Malaysian orangutans, an animal at risk of extinction. If you love orangutans and care about their future please join our campaign by signing and sharing our petition. CLICK HERE to sign and share now. And don’t forget to TWEET.
Every four weeks the company sends up to 12 unqualified paying individuals to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) in the Malaysian Bornean state of Sabah, Malaysia, to be part of the ‘rehabilitation’ of orangutans. Each individual pays US$ 3,400. SORC is managed by the Sabah state government.
According to the Travellers Worldwide website these individuals, called “volunteers”, are able to, among others, monitor, feed and manage orangutans who are under rehabilitation for potential forest release in the future. However, this practice, which can and should be done by SORC staff only, can have serious negative impacts for orangutans under rehabilitation and yet has continued for over 15 years.
Without their mothers orphan orangutans need familiarity and trust, and should, therefore, only be exposed to and bond with the minimal number of caregivers as possible in their early years as the apes are guided through the rehabilitation process. Having ever changing personnel working hands on with rehabilitant orangutans increases the risk of the orangutans becoming far too comfortable with humans, thus increasing the instance of human habituation as these animals’ interests are diverted away from natural behaviours and interactions within the forest environment.
It is no surprise that SORC has for many years faced major problems with orangutans habituated to humans, made worse by its unethical and unsustainable orangutan tourism.
Orangutan conservationists have warned of the serious risks of rehabilitant orangutans becoming habituated to humans, such as encouraging terrestriality (which has been linked to increased vulnerability to predation), disease transmission, deficient nesting skills, poor arboreal travel, inefficient foraging, increased vulnerability to poachers and physical attacks on humans (habituated orangutans have physically attacked SORC tourists in the past). All this can have dire consequences on the future of a species fighting for its survival.
Orangutan conservationists also recommend that orangutan rehabilitation be limited to a closed, qualified and stable group of people who always work with the same orangutans, ideally through their entire rehabilitation. These few dedicated caregivers also promote trust and provide social and emotional support to rehabilitants.
We informed Travellers Worldwide of the effects their volunteering practice can have on the rehabilitant orangutans at SORC, yet they have chosen to ignore us in favour of continuing to exploit Malaysian orangutans for their own financial gain.
We call on the new Sabah state government and its Environment Minister, Datuk Christina Liew to put an end to the exploitation to help with the future of Sabah’s orangutans.