A passive interest in orangutans turned into something much more serious for Sue Sheward when a friend asked her to join her on a holiday to Sabah in April 2000.
Despite being 54, Sue wasn’t interested in taking it easy on a tropical beach. Instead, she contacted the Sabah Wildlife Department who offered her the opportunity to take a two week volunteer placement at their Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan .
When Sue arrived at the centre she was put to work in the nursery, caring for the babies. “It was a dream come true,” recalls Sue. “The apes had to be cared for in exactly the same was as a human baby: feeding from a bottle, bathing and even changing nappies on the youngest ones, but most of all they needed lots of TLC as they were all orphans who had lost their mummy at a very young age.”
Inspired by the experience and at the same time saddened by the center’s lack of financial resources Sue was determined to help.
Even though she had no previous experience of fundraising, Sue wasted no time on her return home to Effingham in Surrey – she started by running meat raffles every Sunday in her local pub, organising jumble sales and car boot sales.
Finally, in March 2001 Sue, her husband Martyn, and volunteers from the UK’s Chester Zoo set to work in 35 degree heat and 90% humidity to erect the enclosure which would enable the babies to practice their climbing skills and prepare for their release.
Since then Sue has formed a Registered Charity in the UK . The charity’s main form of income is their adoption scheme where people can adopt one of the orangutans currently being rehabilitated at Sepilok for only £25 (RM180) per year. The adoption provides information on how the baby came to be at Sepilok and includes pictures as well as a certificate. The adoptive parent also receives updates every six months.
All Sue’s Projects are aimed at saving the orangutan from extinction. There are currently only 15,000 to 20,000 orangutans left in the wild and they need help. It is Sue’s strong believe that Sabah will be the last stronghold of the orangutan and now she’s appealing to interested expats to help her to help the apes.
For more information on the appeal visit: www.orangutan-appeal.org.uk