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Still waiting for answers on Orangutan Island

July 3, 2012

FMT LETTER: From Upreshpal Singh, via e-mail

We are curious to find that Bukit Merah Laketown Resort seem to release panegyric statements on its Orangutan Island when questions are asked of its activities there (‘Helping hand for the orang utan’, NST, June 16). The real questions raised by NGOs and other concerned people are never answered.

Firstly, we wonder why orangutans from other wildlife centres are sent to Orangutan Island? This same question has been asked before, but no one bothers to answer, unsurprisingly.

Why did two orangutans confiscated from a man in Sarawak sent all the way to Bukit Merah? Why not the rescue centre in Sarawak? Are Perhilitan and the NRE aware of this? Was there investigations done?

The high birth rates at Orangutan Island is disturbing. An orangutan which gives birth to three babies in three years does not sound good at all. In the wild, a female orangutan gives birth to one orangutan in about seven years. Why the high birth rates at Orangutan Island?

According to the article in NST, “Sara is the more manja of the two as her mother passed away when she was just a baby.” This sounds different from what we heard, “Sara’s mum died after giving birth to her”. Will Orangutan Island explain why Sara’s mum gave birth to three babies in three years?

Again, more questions raised than answered. Jidin, whose mother we now believe is nursing another newborn baby, also gave birth to another prior to him, named June Jr., who is now behind the glassed tanks. So now we have two babies taken away from Baboon (rather inappropriately named). Will her third baby be separated from her?

Have we ever heard of a rehabilitation centre which put baby orangutans behind glassed tanks and say “this is how to prepare orangutans for wild release”? We also have reasons to believe these babies are kept in barren cages after closing time for more than 12 hours.

Orangutan Island has been around for 12 years, how many orangutans have been released in the wild? And when Orangutan Island claim on their website, “in anticipation for their eventual release into their natural habitat”, are they looking to release the orangutans born in Orangutan Island or the ones they have acquired from other wildlife centres?

We also find this statement below nonsensical.

“But if you leave them in the jungle, what are we going to learn from that? Add to this  the threats of poaching, hunting… how will they survive? The best place to do research is in a confined area, which is what we have.”

Orangutans belong in the jungle, that is where their home is. Because there is a threat to orangutans in the wild, Orangutan Island seem to imply that orangutans should be removed from their natural forest homes before they all go ‘missing’.

What should actually be done is tackling the root of the problem, like habitat destruction caused by palm oil plantations and pet trade. We must deal with cause, not effect. How has Orangutan Island’s research on orangutans help the dwindling population of orangutans in the wild? And the sorry condition of orangutans throughout zoos in Malaysia?

Many friends of the orangutans are also deeply worried about Dingo the adult male orangutan. We have never heard or seen him outside his cage. How long has he been locked up? Why? What is his condition? Is he alive at all? Or has he suffered the same fate as Mike?

And finally, friends of the orangutans from all across the world are still eagerly waiting for the results of the NRE’s investigation on Orangutan Island. Minister Douglas Uggah Embas in May gave assurance that investigation was going on and it is almost July now.


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