After a Year Inside a Chicken Cage, a Baby Orangutan Gets a Second Chance

Kept as a pet in Ketapang, Indonesia, the undersize ape was given only condensed milk for the first 10 months of his life.
Jan 24, 2015·
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

Budi the orangutan had a rough start on life, but thanks to an animal rescue group in Indonesia, things are looking up.

The ape arrived at an orangutan rescue center in Borneo, Indonesia, in December. His former owners, who kept him as a pet in a chicken cage, had called the authorities after he became sick.

“The owner said that she was afraid to give Budi any fruits and thought that giving condensed milk would be sufficient,” Ayu Handayani, a veterinarian for the International Animal Rescue, said in a statement.

It took the rescue team 10 hours by boat and road to bring Budi to IAR’s rescue center, where he was found to be suffering from severe malnutrition and anemia. The lack of protein in his diet also made his body swell up with fluid.

Budi is old enough to climb trees, according to IAR program director Karmele Sanchez, but he can’t fully move his limbs and can only sit up for short periods.

“We cannot even imagine how much pain this small baby has suffered,” said Sanchez. “His eyes fill with tears every time he’s moved by the doctors, and he screams in pain. It’s really amazing that Budi has been able to survive this long.”

Endemic in Borneo, orangutan populations have plummeted over 50 percent during the past six decades. The clearing of swaths of trees for palm plantations has forced many orangutans toward developed areas, where they’re hunted for meat or in retaliation for destroying crops. When their mothers are caught (female orangutans are known to share a strong bond with their young), the babies are often kept or sold as pets.

While the species’ fate depends on consumers worldwide—half the products found in American grocery store aisles contain palm oil—Budi’s rescuers are optimistic.

“[W]ith good nutrition, supplements, and therapy from the medical team, we hope he will continue to improve,” said Sanchez.