LEO the orangutan spent 16 years as a refugee from the 1997 forest fires in Borneo and might never have found freedom were it not for Macadamia Castle owner and Lismore resident Tony Gilding.

As president of Borneo Orangutan Survival Australia, Mr Gilding has been working for about 12 years to help move displaced apes safely into protected wild forest.

He hasn't been doing it alone. The latest release of three orangutans, including Leo, involved about 60 people physically hauling carrying cages containing the creatures into remote jungle where they would be safe.

"It's a huge amount of work, getting the right government approvals and getting all the preparation done," he said.

Mr Gilding said his organisation had about 100 hectares of protected forest where it could release about 200 orangutans after they had gone through a series of "schools" to prepare them for life in the wild. But Borneo Orangutan Survival Australia was looking after about 800 orangutans.

Mr Gilding said Northern Rivers residents wanting to help could go to the organisation's website.

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