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Tuesday September 13, 2011

Organising ‘balik kampung’ for displaced orang utans?

DURING a media luncheon in Putrajaya yesterday, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok had said in jest that Malaysia was toying with the idea of taking all the orang utans from the zoos of cold-climate Western countries “balik kampung” in the spirit of Hari Raya.

However, he admitted that currently there was still no effective platform for Malaysia to undertake such an initiative.

Balik Kampung in Malay means to return to the place of origin. In this case, Malaysia is considering to release the zoo-captivated orang utans back to its natural habitats in the island of Borneo.

This perhaps is one way to counter the constant attacks from Western NGOs to prove to them that Malaysia is a responsible palm oil producer.

In Sabah, for example, there exists a 47-year old Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary covering 4,300ha of the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, which was initially set up to rehabilitate orphaned baby orang utans.

In addition, Malaysia via the support of local palm oil industry and Sabah state is currently pursuing a mega wildlife sanctuary involving 100,000ha of rainforest in an area of 300,000ha of contiguous forest zones in Sabah.

Malaysian Palm Oil Council chief executive officer Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron had said the proposed wildlife sanctuary would have 100,000ha of nucleus with rehabilitation and release function for orang utan and other wildlife.

This (the size of the wildlife sanctuary) is over three times the size of Singapore. “There are 4 million people in Singapore but only 11,000 orang utans in Sabah.

This imply that if all the orang utans were to live in the mega sanctuary, they have potentially more land base than the people of Singapore by a factor of 1,350 times!” he said.

In Perak, there is also the Bukit Merah Orang Utan Island Foundation set up by Emkay Group property tycoon Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal. It has been the driving force behind the island's operations and its research centre's main source of funding.

The foundation handles the island's facilities, facilitating sponsorships and donations, organising orang utan infant relocation, displacement support, rehabilitation and education programmes, It also collaborates with universities, government agencies, schools, charitable organisations and NGOs.

While green activists and Western NGOs have been lambasting world major palm oil producers Malaysia and Indonesia for killing the orang utan and destroying wildlife habitats from massive oil palm planting, many either intentionally or unintentionally have failed to recognise the poor conditions of many orang utans kept in the confined spaces under the non-tropical climates in the zoos of Western countries .

Why can't green activitists and Western NGOs be more supportive of Malaysia's noble initiatives to protect the orang utan?

Malaysia in fact fully welcomes all to participate in its move to provide a safer and more conducive environment for the orang utan.

Therefore, for a start, why not give Malaysia a chance to prove itself to be a responsible palm oil producer?

  • For now onwards, deputy news editor Hanim Adnan thinks the image of orang utan will appear in her mind whenever she listens to her favourite raya song “Balik Kampung” sung by the late Datuk Sudirman Arshad.

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