This story is over 5 years old.

A Crying Baby Orangutan Named Budi Highlights Indonesia's Exotic Pet Problem

Budi was kept in a chicken cage for 10 months and severely emaciated, anemic, and swollen from only being fed condensed milk, rescuers said.
March 21, 2015, 2:55pm
Photo via International Animal Rescue IAR

Budi, a small baby orangutan who was kept in a chicken cage and fed only condensed milk for 10 months, is recuperating at an animal shelter in Indonesia after coming close to death from malnourishment and neglect.

Budi's owner recently handed him over to local wildlife rescuers in Ketapang, Indonesia. The man had been keeping the endangered baby ape as a pet. In parts of Borneo and Sumatra — two islands in Southeast Asia — the animals have been threatened by mass deforestation, poaching, and smuggling for the illegal exotic pet trade.

Photo via International Animal Rescue/YouTube

While it is illegal to keep orangutans as pets in both Indonesia and under the the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the practice is common and authorities rarely prosecute owners who keep primates in captivity. The animals are often kept at homes as a status symbol, where they treated like human babies.

Borneo Orangutan Survival Australia estimates that more than 1,000 animals are smuggled from their native habitats each year — a number some activists say is a conservative estimate.

Most great apes that enter the illegal pet trade do not survive, according to a 2013 report by the United Nations Environment Programme's Great Apes Survival Partnership (GASP).

Related: Watch VICE's documentary: An Inside Look at the Exotic Animal Trade

Orangutans, which translates to "person of the forest" in Bahasa Malay and Indonesian, have distinctive orange hair and are highly intelligent sentient beings. They are also increasingly under threat from smuggling for use in entertainment purposes and in wildlife parks and zoos. In some areas they are also hunted for their meat, a traditional practice of some indigenous cultures in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Budi arrived at International Animal Rescue's Orangutan Rescue Centre in a critical state, his rescuers said. He was severely emaciated, anemic, and swollen with fluid because he had been given no protein and survived only on liquid. He was also suffering from a metabolic disease affecting his bones and was unable to move, rescuers said.

"We cannot even imagine how much pain this small baby has suffered," Dr. Karmele L Sanchez, IAR's Programme Director in Indonesia, said shortly after he was rescued. "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."

But Budi's slow recovery has been encouraging. The baby is now reportedly strong enough to interact with other orangutans, and met his first friend this week since both babies were isolated and starved after being taken from their mothers.