Budi, a critically endangered Borneo orangutan kept as a “pet” and fed only condensed milk in his early years, has returned to his wild forest home after eight years of intensive rehabilitation.

International Animal Rescue (IAR), the nonprofit that spearheaded Budi’s rescue and rehabilitation along with several Indonesian partners, posted a heartwarming video of Budi exiting a carrier and joyfully scampering off into the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park.

Authorities chose the release location, which is now home to 69 rehabilitated orangutans, for its high numbers of tall trees as well as its remote location, which provides security for the orangutans.

“Budi’s story is a beacon of hope and promise for a brighter future,” IAR said in an announcement about his release.

Budi left life in a cramped chicken coop in 2014 as a tiny 10 month old, following a joint rescue by IAR-Indonesia, the Agency of Natural Resources Conservation in Ketapang, and the Gunung National Park. He was severely malnourished, with anemia, distorted limbs, and a painfully swollen body. 

But with a “fantastic ability to learn and willingness to never give up,” according to the rehabilitative staff who cared for him, Budi made a new orangutan friend, Jemmi, and slowly started gaining confidence and new hobbies, such as foraging for forest fruit, swinging from trees, and teaching his newfound skills to other rescues.

His journey wasn’t easy — no rehabilitated orangutan’s ever is, said IAR. But after eight long years, a serious wrong has been righted.

“The moment you have been waiting for has finally arrived,” IAR wrote in Budi’s release video. “Budi is free.”


Budi, Before and After His Rescue (International Animal Rescue)

“Budi’s release is the best possible news for thousands of people around the world whose hearts were touched by the little orangutan when he was first rescued,” IAR said. “Over the years, he has grown from a sick, helpless baby into a strong, healthy orangutan, equipped with all the skills he needs to fend for himself in the forest.”

Budi didn’t go into the forest alone. Authorities also released five other rehabilitated Borneo orangutans — Tulip, Bianca, Jamilah, Faini, and Covita — who had passed the needed medical and behavioral studies to ensure a successful release into the wild.

We are overjoyed that Budi and these ladies received the care and attention they needed to return to their forest homes and that they will now be able to live their lives in peace and freedom, among others of their own kind — which is no less than they deserve.