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article imageMalaysian PM wants orangutans to attract eco-tourists to mainland

By R. C. Camphausen     Mar 21, 2010 in Travel
While the Malaysian part of Borneo does have orangutan sanctuaries, mainland Malaysia does not. The PM now wants to have a new eco-tourism attraction built near the capital, but finds it difficult to get the necessary primates moved.
The Malaysian website The Star Online of March 21, the official beginning of spring, reported that both of the currently existing wildlife centers on the Malaysian part of Borneo are not in favor of relocating any of their primates to the mainland, even if that goes against the wishes of the current Prime Minister Mohamed Najib bin Abdul Razak.
The article cites the Deputy Tourism Minister as saying both orangutan sanctuaries want their primates to stay where they are, and that the government would have to look for orang utans from elsewhere, for example the small island in Perak.
This news comes because the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) has plans to allocate circa 200 acres in Kepong, not far from Malaysia's capital, in order to set up a new center to attract eco-tourism that is similar to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre as well as to the Sepilok orang utan sanctuary in Sandakan.
While it is not even certain just when the mainland project will come off the ground, the government seems determined to have an orangutan sanctuary near Kuala Lumpur, imagining that it could be a great success as it would leave a lasting impression on wildlife and ecology oriented visitors.
The Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit has stated the following: “I cannot ascertain when we can make it a reality. But this is a directive from the Prime Minister, which is why we must do it.”
Orangutan on Borneo. Photograph taken during a visit of the Semenggoh Wildlife Center.
Orangutan on Borneo. Photograph taken during a visit of the Semenggoh Wildlife Center.
Having been to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre some years ago, I can perfectly understand why the existing centers don't want their fellow primates to be moved. Although chimpanzees do have more DNA in common with humans than do orangutans, these intelligent primates do certainly forge a bond with their human helpers and handlers, not to mention that they carve out a niche for themselves in the remaining bits of original jungle that's left on the huge island.
Orang, incidentally, means human in Malay, and utan means forest. An Orang Utan therefore is a forest-dwelling human. The complete inter-relatedness of these words are brought home to you when travelling in Malaysia. On the local bus, for example, it may say 32 orang ... meaning "room for 32 passengers."
More about Orangutan, Sarawak, Sanctuary, Borneo, Malaysia
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