01 01/01/0001

Our Bridge Builders Return

Our team of seven staff have returned safely from the bridge building expedition in Borneo – read our Act for Wildlife blog from Cat Barton in our Conservation Team.


Chester Zoo have supported HUTAN’s Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Programme (KOCP) for many years, and being part of the conservation team I get to hear about all of the fantastic work which is being done out in Sabah.

But this year, it was my turn to get stuck in and get my hands dirty! We travelled to Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, which is where HUTAN-KOCP are based. 

We spent two weeks helping to build orangutan rope bridges, taking with us webbing material which we’ve used for many years in the Realm of the Red Ape exhibit at the zoo.

This webbing was spotted by the co-director of HUTAN-KOCP, and due to its many properties, including being lightweight, non-biodegradable and UV resistant, was perfect for the environmental conditions found in Sabah.

(C)HUTAN - Eddie Ahmad - Chester Zoo Bridge Builders

Image © HUTAN - Eddie Ahmad

Six orangutan bridges have already been built by the HUTAN-KOCP team and their partners the Borneo Conservation Trust and Danau Girang Field Centre, reconnecting orangutan populations which have become isolated from each other for many reasons, such as palm oil plantations, roads and drainage channels. 

Over the two weeks, alongside HUTAN-KOCP, Ropeskills Rigging Sdn Bhd, Danau Girang Field Centre and the Sabah Wildlife Department, we took down three old bridges which needed to be replaced and put up a total of SEVEN new bridges - a fantastic achievement for the whole team.

It wasn’t easy work – we were up and out at 6:30 am to get started and it was already hot and humid at this time.  The cruise down the river to the field site was a welcome escape from the heat.

It got up to 35oC and around 90% humidity and, by early afternoon, the heavy rains would start.  If you weren’t already wet from the sweat, you were soaked after 10 seconds in that rain. 

And we were only working there for two weeks… the HUTAN-KOCP team work in these conditions throughout the year, dealing with mosquitoes, leeches, the midday burning sun and the heavy rains.  

Our eyes were certainly opened to the fantastic work carried out by HUTAN-KOCP and the amazing wildlife of Sabah.  It was a journey which we were all so privileged to be a part of.   We all have our fingers crossed that orangutans will be seen using these bridges very soon. 

For me, the overriding memory of the trip was completing the final day’s work where two bridges were completed.  The bridges connected an area where four orangutans are known to be trapped between the plantations and the river. 

When we arrived, we spotted an orangutan nest straight away, so completing those was a huge achievement. 


Read what the rest of my teammates say about their best and worst memories of the trip:

Andy Lenihan (Primate Team): The best thing about the trip has to be getting muddy.  And the worst thing…getting clean!

Nick Davis (Projects Team): The most memorable moment would be finally getting to the top of the first tree, after some effort, and looking out at the top of the rain forest canopy (all safely roped up of course!). Hardest part was putting up with that pesky cockerel which had a habit of crowing at 3 in the morning….

Anna Furse (Horticulture Team): My most memorable moment was watching the wild orangutans from our boat, which highlighted all the reasons why we were there.  And the hardest part….dealing with those horrid mosquito bites!

Mark Wylie (Primate Team): Putting up with the huge amounts of ants in our rooms which were all over our beds wasn’t a great experience! I can’t choose a best moment as the whole trip was fantastic!

Andy Adderton (Maintenance Team): The highlight for me was travelling to work in the sunshine via boat and surrounded by wildlife every morning

Andy Greenhalgh (Horticulture Team): The best part of the trip was seeing the Orangutans in the wild and knowing we had just put bridges up to help them.  The most difficult part was putting up with all the rice!