KOTA KINABALU: Sabah wildlife guardians are not giving up on plans to return Tiger, the rehabilitated orang utan, to the wild after its high-profile release in October last year into a protected forest did not succeed.
Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said they were in the process of trying to find a suitable site for his release.
“Actually, we are not giving up on releasing Tiger back into the forest because we believe he can survive but we need to find suitable site, far away from human habitation, ” he said when contacted Tuesday.
However, he denied claims animal conservation activist that Sabah Wildlife Department had been secretive about Tiger’s return to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan.
“It is not true that we kept Tiger’s return to Sepilok a secret because most of those in conservation fraternity in Sabah knew about it, ” he said.
Tuuga also disputed claims by Friends of the Orangutans Malaysia director Upreshpal Singh that the wildlife officials had failed to monitor Tiger after its release in Tabin which was widely publicised locally and internationally.
“It is not true that we did not monitor him after his release. We monitored him several days but he disappeared into the forest, ” Tuuga said.
“It can survive in the forest. Going to human habitation is the problem, ” he added.
Upreshpal had raised concerns over Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation centre’s silence over Tiger’s return to Sepilok and the failure to monitor it after releasing it into the wild.
He also said that the Sepilok management continued to use videos of its release to the wild as a success story to tourist visiting the internationally famed rehabilitation centre.
“The use of such video portraying Tiger’s release may not be the appropriate representation, ” he said on Sunday (Sept 1).
On Oct 3 last year, Tiger, which spent 17 years in the Sepilok Forest Reserve after being rescued a baby orang utan, was set free at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve (TWR) in Lahad Datu.
However, it was learned that he did not adopt to his new environment and was seen visiting settlements before being recaptured and taken back to Sepilok.
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