A macaque ripped from the wild in Indonesia and sold overseas as a “pet” is now on her way back to her wild home, following a critical rescue and a years-long coordinating effort spearheaded by a nonprofit.

Wild Welfare, a UK-based charity working to improve the lives of wild animals in captivity, doesn’t typically rescue or rehome animals.

But when they heard the case of Siti, whom traffickers stole from Indonesia and sold as a pet in Malaysia, they knew they had to find the resources and ability to help her.

Siti is a Moor macaque — a species listed as endangered and decreasing on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List.

Authorities thankfully had confiscated the tiny primate months into her captivity as a pet and relocated her to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park. But caring staff there, who know that primates are a social species who enjoy grooming and interacting with each other, wanted to find Siti a space with other macaques.

Siti at Lok Kawi

Siti at Lok Kawi Wildlife Park (Courtesy of Wild Welfare)

The park reached out to Wild Welfare, which found Siti a spot at the Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue Center in Sulawesi, Indonesia — and so started a 3-year effort to bring Siti home.

Siti’s rescue and attempted relocation fell right in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding uncertainty to already complicated travel plans. 

Siti needed specialized CITES permits to move across an international border. She also needed bacterial testing to ensure she was free from disease. 

The organizations could have shipped Siti via an arduous ferry route or through a standard airline — which would have required 24 hours of travel time and three changes of plane — but worried doing so wouldn’t be in her best interest.


Siti In Transport (Courtesy of Wild Welfare)

To minimize her stress, the groups ended up chartering a plane, which got her to the rescue center in four hours, accompanied by Wild Welfare Founder Dave Morgan and Lok Kawi Wildlife Park’s Animal Technician Sylvester Dyson to ensure her safe passage.

A public fundraising campaign earned nearly £3,000 (USD$3,800) to help cover travel costs, with donations also coming in from the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, the Joanna Toole Foundation, and the Oakland Zoo.

Then came the announcement everyone had been waiting for: Siti had arrived safely at the wildlife rescue.  

“We refused to give up on her,” Morgan said. “There were so many frustrating setbacks that sometimes it felt like we would never reach this moment, but we’re finally here and the whole team is so happy for Siti.”

After clearing a mandated quarantine period, Siti will be able to mingle with other macaques for the first time in years, climbing trees and playing in the rescue center’s large, natural environment. 

Because she is a member of an endangered species, rescue staff also hope to someday release her back to the wild if they can safely do so.

We are so grateful to all the organizations that came together for sweet Siti, and we are overjoyed that she’ll soon be able to mix with other macaques and have the happy and fulfilling life she deserves!