This destination holds a special place in my heart. Ever since I saw its founder Dr. Willie Smits in a Dutch television show talking passionately about his dedication to fight deforestation, protect rainforests and rescue wildlife and the orangutan in particular, I knew I wanted to contribute to his work myself. So in June 2013 I packed my bag to visit Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue Centre in North-Sulawesi.
The aim of Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue Centre
Tasikoki has been established in a strategic location near to the harbour to tackle the illegal wildlife trade from Indonesia towards the Philippines and onwards to China, Taiwan and Japan. Ever since they have rescued many different species of birds and animals including babirusas, cassowaries, macaques, sun bears and orangutans.
The aim of Tasikoki is so rescue, rehabilitate and if possible release wild animals. However, the release can be rather challenging as not every species is derived from Sulawesi. For example, Tasikoki is home to two organutans that belong in Borneo or Sumatra and therefore can’t be released at Sulawesi. Nevertheless did Tasikoki succeed in releasing several groups of native black macaques.
To support the rescue centre both financially and in manpower, Tasikoki runs a volunteer programme with a capacity for about 20 volunteers. Volunteers assist the regular keepers with gathering food, feeding the animals and cleaning enclosures.
A day as a volunteer at Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue Centre
So what does a day at Tasikoki generally look like? The workday is divided into three shifts, starting quit early at 06.00 – 08.00 AM. During this shift you will harvest browse for the primates, clean the enclosures and give the animals their morning feed. A big bonus of the early start is the amazing sunrise with a view on the ocean.
After breakfast you will work from 09.00 till 11.30 AM. Most of your time will be spend on the preparation and provision of enrichments: food presentation in different ways that makes the animal work for its food, encouraging natural behaviour. You can also be assigned to build and improve enclosures.
After a 1,5 hour lunch break and an energizing meal – both very welcome when working in the tropics – you will spend the last three hours of the shift on afternoon feed, harvesting browse, enrichment preparation and handout, meetings or workshops.
At 04.00 PM you are free to enjoy your spare time by taking a dip into the ocean, climb the watchtower to enjoy the view or take some time to relax at the volunteer house. Vegetarian and vegan meals are being provided, occasionally with some fish or eggs.
Work hard, play hard! Every Wednesday, all volunteers have the afternoon off to join a planned excursion in the surrounded area, for example to the Masarang Sea Turtle Project or Tangkoko Nature Reserve Tours. At Tangkoko, you will have the unique opportunity to experience black macaques in their natural habitat.
Things to take into account
When considering volunteering at Tasikoki, there are a few things to take into account. If you are not used to the hot humid climate, the physical work can be intense. The magic tricks: take a good rest during the breaks and at night, eat well and most importantly: keep drinking! Bring long sleeved clothing and repellent to protect yourself against mosquitos.
At last: Since Tasikoki is about rehabilitating wildlife, no touching is allowed. In stead of that you can observe animals show-off natural behaviour, which to me is the best reward you can get.
The best thing of joining Tasikoki as a volunteer is experiencing first hand how your effort really makes a difference in such an important cause. I gained many valuable insights about animals, biodiversity and the challenges that both wildlife and nature face nowadays. Besides, you also contribute to sustainable livelihoods as the regular staff is financed with the revenues coming from the volunteer programme. A no-brainer!
Watch the video to learn more about Tasikoki or go straight to the website to apply.
Prices: Prices start at €650 ($695) for two weeks including housing and meals.
Transport: Transport from and to Manado or the Manado airport can be arranged with Tasikoki.