Endangered orangutans not free gifts with palm oil purchase, Sarawak activist tells minister

Orangutan at Semenggoh Wildlife Centre (file photo)

By DayakDaily Team

KUCHING, May 19: Sarawak activist Peter John Jaban has slammed the Malaysian Minister of Plantation and Commodities Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani for his idea to gift orangutans to palm oil trading countries.

Peter John, whose radio moniker was ‘Papa Orangutan’, describes the plan as derivative, outdated and counterproductive, and called on the minister to focus on cleaning up the palm oil industry as a means to improve its reputation instead of engaging in silly stunts.


“I chose the name ‘Papa Orangutan’ for my radio name because this animal, iconic to Borneo, symbolised the destruction of our rainforest. Now our minister wants to turn that into the emblem of his plantations policy?

“His idea to send these sensitive, critically endangered animals out into the world is a clear message that Borneo no longer has the rainforest to house them in their natural habitats. This is not a ‘commitment to biodiversity conservation’. Instead, this is a free gift with purchase,” he said in a statement today.

On May 7, Johari reportedly announced Malaysia’s intention to introduce “orangutan diplomacy” where the country plans to offer orangutan as gifts to trading partners and foster foreign relations, particularly with major importing nations such as the European Union, India, and China.

Following this, Peter John pointed out that the orangutans live exclusively in the rainforest canopy, expressing his protest towards the idea to lock the animals in zoos around the world.

He further likened Johari’s proposal to China’s giant panda diplomacy, where there are cases where many countries around the world had returned their giant pandas to China.

Rather than gifting orangutans, Peter John called on the minister to follow the footsteps of oil palm plantations in Sabah that have instituted wildlife corridors to allow for the movement of pygmy elephants.

“This is the kind of initiative that will impress European Union (EU) buyers instead of ‘buy our palm oil, get a free orangutan’ promises. What is more, orangutans are a tourism draw for both Sabah and Sarawak.

“Using them as a promotional tool for oil palm products can only serve to dissuade people from visiting the Borneo States to see these majestic animals in their native environment,” he added.

He further urged the government to invite oil palm plantations companies in Borneo and the international media to learn more about the country’s orangutan conservation projects and to provide financial support for orangutan conservation in Malaysia and Indonesia. — DayakDaily