Orangutan Who Spent Years Locked In Wooden Box Makes Her First Friend

She'd never met another orangutan before — and she immediately wanted to play.

No one knows exactly how long Amy spent locked up and alone in a dilapidated wooden crate in Borneo, but it was probably years.

Wooden crate where wild orangutan was forced to live
Amy spent most of her life in this wooden crate after her family was killed in Borneo. | IAR

Like so many endangered orangutans, Amy was taken from the wild when she was a baby after losing her family and her habitat. A gun pellet lodged in her side is a permanent reminder of the day she was wounded and her mother was killed by villagers.

Endangered orangutan kept as pet in Borneo
As Amy grew, her bones bent as she crouched to fit in her tiny enclosure. | IAR

Since then, she spent her life without any other orangutans. When she grew, her owner put a chain around her neck to ensure she wouldn’t escape from the wooden crate. She crouched to fit inside the confined space, day in and day out, and her bones bent from the strain.

Orangutan kept in crate in Borneo

So when Amy was rescued from her destitution in March, there was no telling how long it would take her to recover from years of solitude and trauma.

"She had the dead eyes and blank gaze that come from a lifetime of loneliness and neglect," a spokesperson for International Animal Rescue (IAR) wrote in a statement. "She seemed to have completely given up on life."

Orangutan kept in crate in Borneo

Rescuers took Amy to IAR’s rehabilitation center and put her in quarantine while her health and state of mind could be assessed.

Soon, she was ready to move to an outdoor enclosure where, for the first time in years, she could see other orangutans like her.

Orangutan rescued from crate meets friends

"Amy was moved to an outdoor cage where she could see other orangutans so that she could learn from their example and get used to the sights and sounds of the outside world,” IAR said in a statement. And Amy was apparently hungry for the new environment and the healthy fruits and vegetables. "Sometimes when she was unsure about eating an unfamiliar food, she would look around first to see what the other orangutans were doing. Within a week, Amy was completely settled in her new environment.”

Orangutan meets new friends at rescue center in Borneo

Amy was ready to get even closer to other orangutans, so she moved next door to one.  

"Amy’s response was quite amazing. She was curious about her new neighbor and tried to reach through and touch her,” Heribertus Suciadi, a member of IAR’s team, said. "She clearly wanted to play with her new friend.”

Finally, a few weeks later, rescuers realized Amy really was ready to meet a whole group of new friends.

Orangutan with rescuers

So her rescuers walked her to a little island at the rescue center where other orangutans undergoing rehabilitation are learning how to be wild again.

“Amy doesn't like people to touch her and so she walked to Setrum Island unaided — but with the team there to guide her,” Heribertus said. "She paused for a while to look around her and seemed fascinated by the trees. When she finally reached the island, Amy’s new friends were already waiting for her.”

Rescued orangutan holds new friend's hand

As Amy approached, her new friends smelled her and gently touched her. "Amy didn't mind at all,” Herbert’s said. "She even started to climb a tree and slowly explore the forest."

rescued orangutan kisses her new friend

Seeing Amy with her new group, it’s hard to believe she spent so many years alone.

Rescued orangutan with her new friends

"It’s a real testimony to her physical and mental resilience that she is adjusting so well to her new environment and taking so many new experiences in her stride,” Alan Knight, CEO of IAR, said. "It is so uplifting."

To help IAR rescue more animals like Amy, you can make a donation.