The world was first introduced to Budi, an abused baby orangutan who'd spent the first year of his life caged and fed entirely on condensed milk, late last month. The heart-rending story grabbed headlines after the youngster's owner released him to the care of International Animal Rescue's (IAR) Orangutan Rescue Centre in Ketapang, Borneo. Budi was weak, anaemic and bloated from severe malnutrition. Months spent in extreme confinement and without adequate nutrition had impaired his bone development and weakened his muscles. The road to recovery would be long, difficult and uncertain. 

But just a month later, Budi has shown himself to be a remarkable little survivor. In fact, staff at the rescue centre were recently able to celebrate his first steps and some major improvements in his mobility. His physiotherapy sessions have now been stepped up to include climbing lessons to help strengthen the muscles in his arms and legs. You can watch Budi's hard-won first strides here:

It's hard to appreciate just how big a milestone this is for the youngster unless you're one of the caregivers who've been working to bring him back to health since his arrival at the rescue centre. At the time, Dr Karmele L Sanchez, IAR’s programme director in Indonesia, expressed her astonishment that Budi was able to survive his ordeal at all. "We cannot even imagine how much pain this small baby has suffered. His eyes fill with tears every time he's moved by the doctors and he screams in pain," she said at the time.  

In his weakened state, Budi lacked the basic muscle strength to sit up or even to open his own mouth – vets had to gently pry it open just to be able to feed him. Early physiotherapy sessions were slow and marked by discomfort as Budi struggled with even the simplest movements. But in the weeks that followed, staff at the centre were rewarded with some heartening moments as their young patient's condition slowly improved and Budi gained some basic skills – like holding his own bottle and tasting his very first fruit. And his latest achievements have left staff hopeful that he's now on the road to recovery. 

“When you watch the [new] video it’s hard to believe this healthy young infant is the same poor creature we found lying on his back in a cage, completely unable to move or sit up. When Budi was rescued he was so weak and fragile that we all feared he wouldn’t survive. But he has proved to be a real fighter," says IAR chief executive Alan Knight. 

With Borneo's forests being steadily decimated to make room for oil palm plantations, it's likely that Budi is just one of countless young victims (or 'oil palm orphans') robbed of their mothers and their habitat – and delivered into the illegal pet trade – by Indonesia's burgeoning palm oil industry. Borneo is one of two islands (Sumatra is the other) that supply most of the world's palm oil, that seemingly omnipresent ingredient used in some of the most mundane consumer products on our grocery lists, everything from soap to snacks.

At least Budi is one such orphan that looks to be on track for a full recovery. You can help him get there (or help other rescues just like him), by donating here. You can also help by ensuring you buy products made with certified sustainable palm oil.

Top header image: Al Smith, Flickr