Orang utan not to be gifted to trading countries, should remain in habitat, says Sarawak minister

Abdul Karim (second right) speaking at a press conference in Kuching after launching a tourism workshop.

KUCHING: Malaysia does not need to give orang utans as gifts to palm oil trading countries as these primates are better off in their natural habitat, says a Sarawak minister.

Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said he disagreed with the idea of "orang utan diplomacy".

"If it is true that we want to have that kind of diplomacy by giving away our orang utan, which is a protected animal in Sarawak, it might not be a very good move.

"We don't need to give the orang utan as gifts. We can always showcase how we look after our orang utan and how we make sure that their habitat is not destroyed by plantations," he told reporters after launching a workshop on tourism destination resilience here on Monday (May 20).

Abdul Karim added that the right habitat for the orang utan was in Borneo.

"If you give them away, it's not good. The best place for these animals is their natural habitat, not in zoos or cages," he said, adding that Sarawak was doing well in orang utan conservation.

The orang utan is a protected species under Sarawak's Wildlife Protection Ordinance.

There are an estimated 2,000 orang utans in Sarawak’s wild and 11,000 in Sabah.

On May 8, Plantation and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani said Malaysia planned to introduce "orang utan diplomacy" to oil palm trading partners to show the country's commitment towards biodiversity conservation.

He said orang utans would be offered as gifts to major palm oil importers such as the European Union, India and China.

"Malaysia cannot take a defensive approach to the issue of palm oil, instead we need to show the countries worldwide that Malaysia is a sustainable oil palm producer and is committed to protecting forests and environmental sustainability," Johari had said, adding that the move was similar to China's "panda diplomacy".

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