Hello Monday from Alex: our new orangutan intern

Hello Monday Blog

After his first six weeks in the Sabangau Forest, as a six-month orangutan intern, Alex Allsop shares a little about his background and experience in Borneo so far.

My interest in the natural world goes back as long as I can remember, and I always knew I wanted to work in the field. This interest led me to study zoology at university, where I became particularly fascinated by primates. It was through my primatology studies that I came across OuTrop’s work in Borneo and their internships, which are available to people early on in their research and conservation career, like me.

Ready for the Sabangau Forest! Photo by Sophie Kirklin/OuTrop

When I first arrived at camp, I was amazed. It was nothing like I thought it would be. I expected a basic and uncomfortable campsite, and certainly not the rainforest paradise that I now live in. Even the journey to camp wowed me, with a beautiful sunset boat trip, and a slightly precarious walk along narrow boards with a heavy bag on my back. I almost fell into the swamp on a few occasions, especially when I saw a fish-owl fly overhead.

Sunset over Sabangau. Photo by Alex Allsop/OuTrop.

The next morning was crazy, with so many new sights, sounds and people. To be woken at 5 o’clock in the morning by singing gibbons is an experience I’ll never forget, and then to eat breakfast surrounded by butterflies and geckos was fantastic.

My forest training then began. It didn’t take me too long to get accustomed to my new way of life, although there were certainly a few falls and scrapes along the way. I am now a fully integrated member of the primate research team, and love every minute.

Fio (male orangutan) watches me as I watch him! Photo by Alex Allsop/OuTrop

The project that I came here to do involves orangutan vocalisations and communication, but I also help collect main orangutan behaviour data. This work often starts at 4 am, sometimes not getting back to camp until after 6 pm, but it is very rewarding. I am attempting to record as many orangutan vocalisations as possible, along with the social context of these vocalisations. I will then use these data to see if there are individual differences within the Sabangau orangutan population, and between different populations.

The last six weeks have flown past, and I’m sure the next four months will be just as enjoyable, if not more!