Page: Orang Utans

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December 16, 2010

Think of the Orang Utans

S.M. Mohd Idris - President, SAM

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) would like to high-light the golbally publicised news on the planned release of orang utans into BJ Island, which is seperated from Bukit Merah Laketown Resort in Taiping, Perak, for breeding and subsequent release into the Belum Forest in Grik, Perak.

This is a programme of the Bukit Merah Orang Utan Island Fundation (BMOUIF), and it follows the reported success of BMOUIF's Orang Utan Island, on which conservation efforts have been ongoing for about 10 years.

SAM is also very concerned about the Tourism Ministry's move to introduce orang utans from Sabah and Sarawak into the Kanching Forest Reserve in Shah Alam, Selangor, and the Ulu Gombak Forest in Kuala Lumpur.

On the first issue, we want BMOUIF to explain the purpose and objective of releasing the orang utans into the Belum forest. Why release them into areas that are not notive to them?

Our other major concern is whether the removal of baby orang utans from their mothers has been accredited by any established primate body as the right move, since it is natural for orang utans to be raised by their mothers to learn survival skills.

Such a move is contrary to established norms in wildlife rehabilitation and species conservation. Any proposed release of primates into the wild cannot be described as conservation. Conservation is focused on protecting species in their natural habitat and the hanitat itself.

SAM is also greatly concerned over the reported move of the Government to boost eco-tourism in the Klang Valley by creating "Orang Utan Sanctuaries" in the Kanching Forest Reserve and in the Ulu Gombak Forest.

According to Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Kr James Dawos Mamit, orang utans from the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre in Kuching and the Sepilok Sanctuary in Sandakan, Sabah, will be flown over to the peninsula once their new "homes" are identified.

Mamit has been quoted by the media as saying this (moving the orang utans to the peninsula) needed to be done because "it is a directive given to me by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak".

He also said the Government would not back out on this plan because an orang utan sanctuary in Kuala Lumpur would be a big success, as it would leave a "lasting impression on visitors in line with the Government's intention to make eco-tourism a more prominent sector".

Tourism is ot a panacea for orang utan conservation or revenue generation. Profits to private sector partners and the sole purpose of maximising tourist revenue without any credible conservation appear to be the driving force.

Sadly, business and government are not the advocates of the well-being of the orang utan, but more for the exploitation of this sentient species.

Rather than introducing orang utans into the two reserves, the Government should:

Releasing the orang utans into Peninsular Malaysia is unconscionable and a bad practice, especially since this primate species is not native tothis part of the country. Our concern is also that should the orang utans become established and disperse, they might have a negative impact on the local ecosystem and other animal species.

This may include affecting native plants and indigenous wildlife, threat of communicable disease to flora, fauna or even humans, crowding, disruption of the ecosystems, competition for food and other factors.

If conservation concerns are a priority, then it would be best to translocate these animals to their natural habitats to prevent the many ecological disasters arising from the thoughtless release of animals from captivity to the wild.

Translocation would only be appropriate if the natural range of the orang utans in Borneo and Sumatra can no longer support the species of if the natural range of orang utans has been extirpated or become extinct.

A thorough environmental impact study needs to be conducted to evaluate possible negative consequences of such relocation, involving wildlife managers, veterinariasns, wildlife officials, primatologists and orang utan scientists and the result of the report must be made public.

Source: The Star


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