Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Don’t relocate orangutans for eco-tourism: Sabah

Published: Tuesday January 19, 2010

By MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star, Malaysia

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is not keen to relocate any orangutans to peninsular Malaysia for eco-tourism purposes.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said that not only was it dangerous to remove the environment-sensitive primates from their natural habitat, but local people were also against such a move to send away the state’s icon.

He was commenting on a proposal by Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk James Dawos Mamit to obtain orangutans from Sabah and Sarawak to set up an eco-tourism attraction similar to the Sepilok orangutan sanctuary in Sandakan and the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre in Kuching.

Masidi said that orangutans were not like some other animals that could be relocated from their habitat easily, and such movement could prove traumatic for them.

He said relocating an orangutan involved a lot technicalities and planning, saying they cannot be just caught and flown out to another location.

“The orangutans should stay where they are. Those who want to see orangutans will have to come to Sabah to see them,” Masidi said on Tuesday.

Mamit had told reporters in Kuching on Sunday that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had requested some orangutans be sent to peninsular Malaysia to promote eco-tourism.

Masidi said that there has been no official request made to the state government for the orangutans.

“If there is, we are willing to talk and explain our views,” he said.

There are about 11,000 orangutans left in Sabah, and the Sabah Wildlife Department is working towards rehabilitating orangutans affected by forest clearings for agricultural purposes over the years.