The release of the orangutan Ben almost six months ago on Borneo was a milestone: He was the 500th great ape that the BOS Foundation (Borneo Orangutan Survival) was able to release into the wild in the Indonesian part of the island. Now there is joyful certainty: Ben apparently mastered the leap to freedom with flying colours. A BOS observation team recently came across the 12-year-old in Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park and found him in excellent health.

“The two observers were pleased to see that Ben was actively moving through the trees throughout the day in search of food and ate a variety of forest fruits, leaves and bark,” the animal welfare organization said. “He also mastered the barrier of the Rangkong River by crossing it over the branches.”

In the evening Ben then built a comfortable and stable nest in the top of a ficus tree, where he settled down for the night. “Ben’s Body Condition Score (BCS) – a measure that assesses the nutritional status of animals – indicates that he is in good health,” it said. Its exploration of the forest and its foraging activity indicated that the orangutan had adapted well to its new environment.

Ben had previously been prepared for life in the jungle for years in the forest kindergarten, the forest school and finally the forest university. The process is long and tedious. “How well we have prepared our protégés for the great freedom only becomes apparent when they have to cope on their own in the jungle,” explained BOS.

Orangutan means “man of the forest”. The red-brown great apes now only live on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. According to experts, they could be extinct in the wild in a few decades. Poaching, palm oil plantations and forest fires are affecting them. In addition, many animals are kept as pets from infancy, sometimes under terrible conditions – a trauma that animal rights activists often only get to grips with years after the rescue.