TUARAN: Orang utan are once again roaming the 26ha Shangri-La Rasa Ria resort nature park, some 55km north of Kota Kinabalu, where three of the primates were brutally killed and two others injured two weeks ago.
The Sabah Wildlife Department has sent two male orang utan, Otto and Manan, and a female, Pippy, from its rehabilitation centre for the primates at Sepilok in Sandakan to the nature park last week.
The department's deputy director Laurentius Ambu said the primates were sent to ensure continuity of an orang utan awareness programme jointly carried out by the department and the Rasa Ria resort.
He said the programme that began seven years ago was aimed at tourists and locals in Sabah's west coast, as there were no opportunities for them to encounter the primates in this part of the state.
We found that many people had simply seen pictures of orang utan in the wild, Ambu said after a tree-planting ceremony at the Rasa Ria nature park in memory of the three dead orang utan Marie, Mambo and Terry.
He said this when asked about concerns raised by various groups, including the Sabah Environmental Protection Association, on whether the orang utan at the nature park were actually being rehabilitated or were merely a tourist attraction.
Ambu said that under the awareness programme, orang utan from Sepilok would be taken to the nature park to continue their rehabilitation there before being eventually released in the wild.
He said the department was spending about RM7,000 a year for the rehabilitation of each orang utan in Sepilok and that the resort was bearing the costs of maintaining the primates at the nature park.
Ambu said the awareness programme was not a profit-driven venture for the resort, which charges RM5 per person for Malaysian visitors and RM25 for foreign tourists to view the animals.
Rasa Ria general manager Reto Klauser said the planting of durian, langsat and longan trees in memory of the three dead orang utan was appropriate as the trees would eventually serve as food sources and nesting places for primates at the nature park in about 10 years.
Police have arrested five former and existing employees of the resort in connection with the killings.
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