In 2013, we invested with a local partner in renovating and opening a bar in the city centre of Kuching after talking of creating a project like this for a while. Christmas 2013 saw Monkeebar’s opening night. Monkeebar is the first of its kind in Malaysia. It’s a bar, which is not unique, though it does serve some of the cheapest beer in town. What’s special about this place is that for every drink bought here, at least 50% of the profits will be contributed towards Orangutan Project. For any donations made or merchandise bought, 100% of this profit is a donation to wildlife. Over three short years this bar has gone from strength to strength, and from its profits we have been able to make donations to almost all the other orangutan centres on Borneo, both the sun bear centres, the local SSPCA and also fund the post-monitoring animal release team at Matang and all the associated equipment.
With a quick remodelling job taking place in November and December 2016, Bear Garden was open for business before Christmas. This place has a very different feel to Monkeebar, with lots of outdoor seating and is right in the middle of the city. Our aim is for profits from this bar to support sun bear conservation and welfare efforts only, and there is a second level to the building that we intend to turn into an interpretation centre for information about these animals. We also have a local partner in this endeavour, so 50% of the profits once again are for Orangutan Project to make good use of.
This is our first a business that is 100% non-profit. It is also our first restaurant! We were able to take over an already-existing and successful restaurant on the outskirts of Kuching, and the timing of this was perfect. In time, we will channel the profits of this location towards slow loris conservation, carried out by ourselves and other groups too. We continue to work with photographer Chien Lee to create a wildlife theme through the decor in the building, and in time hope to have further information about wildlife and conservation through the grounds of the place.
Again, this venture is a business partnership in which Orangutan Project owns 50% of the business and where 100% profit gained by us goes directly back to our animal welfare and conservation work. The chosen location for this resort is idyllic, and the views of the beach resemble a stereotypical tropical island get-away. It is an area that Western tourism has yet to find so there is nothing ‘mass market’ about it. The beach is private, shared by just 3 resorts – one of these is almost never used, the other is sometimes busy with local tourists. The closest town of Lundu is a 10 minute drive away, and is a small, traditional Sarawakian town. This project has unfortunately progressed at standard Borneo pace, but will be open for customers this year.
We think that the key to achieving sustainable and significant funding streams for conservation work is to compete in the commercial, for-profit business world, but offer consumers something different. As consumers, the majority of us are unlikely to change our habits readily or easily, and though we may want to make more ethical choices we often find it hard to do so. Our businesses are offering a solution to this – you do not need to make any changes to your regular routine to make a meaningful contribution to conservation. Just go out for a drink, a meal and a good time, which you would do anyway.
Most people, given the choice between buying a normal beer or dinner, and buying a beer or meal that will give some money to help wildlife, will choose the product that helps. We like to know that our money is going to a good cause and let’s be honest, it’s even better when we don’t have to do anything particularly different or special to help.
The genius of our businesses is that they not only provide ongoing and sustainable funding solutions to Orangutan Project and other conservation groups, they also provide local employment opportunities and a platform for education, reaching the local and international community living in Kuching, travellers, tourists and volunteers alike. We are expanding both Bear Garden and Loris Lounge to include informative exhibits and hope that these locations will become go-to places for wildlife and conservation information, provided by both the in situ displays and our extremely friendly and knowledgeable staff.
If you are interested to volunteer for free at any of these businesses, please contact us for possible availability