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OVAG 2023

Bali July 23rd - 27th 2023

Orangutan Veterinary Aid (OVAID) had set itself the somewhat daunting task of attending the annual week-long conference of the Orangutan Veterinary Advisory Group (OVAG) conference held in Bali from July 23rd to 28th together with facilitating and organising a practical workshop for 10 Indonesian orangutan vets on the island of Borneo from the 29th July to the 5th August. We would be taking three experts in wildlife dentistry, cardiology and anaesthesia together with a dental x-ray system , an air driven dental unit and several thousand pounds worth of donations - many originating from our generous supplier JAK Marketing Ltd in Yorkshire.

Rather exotic and not much of a hardship we hear you cry, but in reality this involved months of preparation, 24 hours of outward travel carrying 150kg of donations and seeing nothing of Bali except the inside of the airport customs hall and the interior of a hotel reputed to be close to the beach!


Our Story

Every year sees us receiving long wish-lists from the various centres - listing items that they desperately need, cannot obtain or would simply love to have to make their job of caring for the rescued orangutan easier. This year was no exception with a bias towards medicines rather than equipment. Notwithstanding that, we still took approaching £10,000 of donations.


This year has been no exception and Sara and I departed from home on the bus for Heathrow on the 19th July trolleying 9 pieces of luggage and with a certain amount of trepidation at the multifarious items secreted in every conceivable space.




Our journey took us smoothly through the amazing Singapore airport - well smooth if you accept a completely missing bag of donations which luckily only took 24 hours to arrive, and without further incident we found ourselves arriving in Bali.


We of course, never carry dangerous or prohibited items but those of you who have travelled in Indonesia will be aware that there are constant sobering warnings that smuggling may be punishable by death and all luggage is repeatedly x-ray scanned and scrutinised. You can imagine that our suitcases are therefore somewhat conspicuous - especially when you realise that we were hand carrying a dental x-ray machine amongst a hundred other things which did not resemble the average holidaymaker’s bikinis, sunhat and a bottle of duty free!


All our items are, of course donations, not for resale and technically of no commercial value and we normally blag our way through customs with a joke some Bahasa and a plea of ignorance - not difficult in my case of course. This time, however, we knew that we were carrying approximately £10,000 of donations and found that Bali customs have introduced a very specific and thorough on line declaration prior to collecting your bags. To the question - “are you carrying anything sharp or any medicines whatsoever” we decided that in Falstaff’s words, “Discretion would be the better part of valour “ and made our declaration knowing that Dr Hicks was almost certainly now flagged up in bright red.

Sure enough, as soon as I showed my passport the super smart customs officer snapped “What are you carrying?” We were directed to the right hand side like a couple of criminals and all our bags scanned. Now Sara has a beautiful phrase for conditions in Indonesia which is that there is a ‘consistent inconsistency’ but you never know when the inconsistency will arise. Our bags lurched through the x-ray scanner with an ominous slow backwards then forwards again and emerged unscathed at the other end. We loaded them onto trolleys waiting for a tap on the shoulder but none came and I muttered “quick to the exit”. Sara was on a mission and she and her trolley hurtled towards the sanctuary of the arrivals hall. The door hissed quietly closed behind her as she sighed a relieved “well that was lucky” to me — but I was not there! Through the finger smudged glass of the exit door she could see me grinning inanely at her as two brightly buttoned customs men rubbed their hands in glee at my loaded trolley with x-ray machine perched on the top.


The story has a happy ending though because neither customs man could be bothered to wade through three bulging suitcases and

within a couple of days we were delivering hundreds of items to extremely grateful vets from more than a dozen orangutan rescue centres in Indonesia.

Another success for OVAID and another huge thank you to all our supporters.


Happy Orangutan Vets

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