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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Peni - Her Mother's Legacy

This month we're highlighting the story of a mother orangutan and her infant, Peni, who were subjected to a terrible case of cruelty. Alongside her mother, Peni suffered terrible abuse at the hands of a group of villagers who captured and tortured them to try to subdue them.

In 2010 Peni's mother was captured, tied up and we believe she was beaten with sticks, but still she fought with all her might to defend her screaming, terrified baby. She was thrown into a pool of water and her body went limp. Unfortunately the mother didn't survive. But despite her ordeal, Peni was in resonably good physical condition - she now had the difficult talk of overcoming the psychological trauma she'd been through.

Donate today and help orangutans like Peni

After three years of rehabilitation we released Peni back into the wild and we're delighted to tell you that at the end of 2019 we found her in the forest with a baby of her own! She isn't just surviving, she's flourishing!

This month we aim to raise £46,000 to continue our fight to ensure no more orangutans are victims of such unspeakable cruelty. Please donate today to help us reach our goal for orangutans like Peni - your donation will save lives!

Our progress so far...

Goal: £46,000
74% Funded
£33,833 Raised
1,047 Sponsors


could plant and protect three trees, helping us reforest vital orangutan habitat.


could help save the life of a dying orangutan


could go towards the years of rehabilitation a rescued orangutan will need


could plant two trees every month and help us build a future for orangutans


could go towards the vital work of our Orangutan Protection Unit


could help pay for the ongoing veterinary costs at the centre


Chapter One - Rescued

Peni was subjected to a terrible ordeal. Alongside her mother, she suffered terrible abuse at the hands of a group of villagers who captured and tortured them to try to subdue them. They had strayed into a villiage after the surrounding forests had been destroyed in the quest for human consumption. The group appeared to have beaten her with sticks and tied ropes tightly around her arms and legs, then she was thrown into a pool of water. The poor creature was barely alive but still doing all she could to keep Peni safe – she used what strength she had left to wrap her arms around her baby.

This is the harrowing scene that confronted the IAR Indonesia and BKSDA rescue team. They acted fast and released Peni and her mother as quickly as possible. At first they sedated the infant, who was still quite strong and defensive and then they sedated her mother. Both were taken to the forestry department for temporary housing before being moved to our centre.

Chapter Two - Orphaned

Peni awoke from the anaesthesia without a problem but the mother was barely able to move even her fingers. They were medically examined while the teams desperately tried to hook up an IV line to the mother. But every vein they tried was collapsed and they could hear liquid inside her lungs.

Despite doing everything we could to save the mother orangutan, as time went on she began breathing unsteadily until she sadly passed away. It was as if she knew Peni was safe and she could let go and stop fighting. There was nothing more we could have done.

Peni was frantically looking for her mother and was certainly traumatised but had no immediately life-threatening injuries. She was brought to our rehabilitation centre in Ketapang to help her begin to recover from her terrible trauma.

Chapter Three - Recovery

​Despite the horrific trauma she had endured, Peni was in reasonably good physical condition when she arrived, a testament to her mother's love. Ahead of her lay the difficult task of overcoming the psychological trauma she'd been through. Fortunately Peni had spent the first three years of her life in the wild with her mother, so she had already started learning how to survive in the forest. Because of this Peni was only in 'Baby School' for one year before being moved up to 'Forest School'.

Forest school is the next stage of rehabilitation. Peni was always kept as wild as possible so had already gained independence from her keepers, spending more time alone or with other orangutans. She would stay in the forest overnight and began showing nest building behaviour. During this stage Peni was routinely monitored, data was collected and compared to data from wild orangutans.

After graduation from forest school, Peni moved to one of our pre-release islands. Here Peni further developed her nest building and foraging skills, and was monitored from dawn to dusk as her competency was assessed. Monitoring allowed us to ascertain whether she possessed the instincts and the skills that are vital to survive in the forest.

Chapter Four - A New Start

​On 2nd September 2014, Peni was released into the protected forest of Mount Tarak in Ketapang, Borneo - more than two years after her mother died. Peni was transported first by road, then river and finally carried on foot deep into a remote area of rainforest where she was released. Mount Tarak was chosen as the release site for Peni after a series of surveys undertaken by our team revealed that this protected forest had sufficient varied foods available and a resident wild orangutan population.

Our release team and the BKSDA undertook the five hour drive to Mount Tarak during the night and then a further three hours on foot to reach the chosen site. Our monitoring team confirmed Peni was doing extremely well and started eating Baccaurea, a favourite fruit for orangutans, as soon as she was released.  At the end of the day she was observed making a comfy nest with large branches of foliage indicating she was relaxed and settled in her new wild environment. Karmele Sanchez, Programe Director, said at the time "“Peni’s story was a horrific one. We weren’t sure whether she would even survive the trauma of watching her mother being beaten and dying before her eyes. However, we’re thrilled to see how well she is coping with her new-found freedom."

Chapter Five - Becoming a Mother

We are delighted that at the age of 12, Peni has become a mother. After being released, she enjoyed a peaceful life swinging through the canopy of the protected forest in Gunung Tarak. She was routinely monitored to ensure she was able to apply all the skills she had learnt at our rehabilitation centre to keep herself healthy and happy in the wild. Peni is a shining example of the success of our orangutan project in Borneo as the first rehabilitated orangutan we've seen to have had a baby in the wild. She is the epitome of our work and showcases how we are repopulating a species on the brink of extinction.

Footage and photos show Peni completely at ease in her role as a new mother. She looks calm and relaxed as she moves through the trees with her tiny baby, named Tarak, clinging tightly to her. Thanks to the dedication of our team in Indonesia Tarak will never have to endure the suffering his mother and grandmother experienced at the hands of humans. Instead Tarak will enjoy a protected forest now home to his mother and benefit from the lessons passed on from his grandmother. A legacy we hope will live on with future generations of Peni's family. Thank you for following Peni's story this month. We are incredibly proud to be able to celebrate Peni's new baby with you, please donate to help us continue our valuable work and give another orangutan a chance at life in the wild.

Join us each week as we tell Peni's tale...