PETALING JAYA: An environmentalist has expressed shock over plantation industries and commodities minister Zuraida Kamaruddin’s “bizarre and ignorant” claim that orangutans kill people when they see them.
Ecotourism and Conservation Society of Malaysia (Ecomy) president Andrew Sebastian said he was appalled by Zuraida’s lack of knowledge and that her claim did a disservice both to the environment and the palm oil industry.
Zuraida was reported to have said at the Malaysian Palm Oil Council’s 2022 seminar and dialogue on Jan 5 that Malaysia still had many orangutans, contrary to the notion that the palm oil industry was killing the primates.
“In Malaysia, if you see an orangutan, it will kill you first, not you kill the orangutan first, correct?” the minister said during her speech.
She said the wildlife and national parks department (Perhilitan) did not simply kill orangutans, tigers and lions, and had a policy of “making the animals faint” before taking them to the zoo.
Andrew, who pointed out that lions were not found in the wild in Malaysia, said Zuraida’s claim that orangutans sought to attack animals they came across was wrong.
“It is really bizarre and ignorant,” he said.
He also said Zuraida had failed to acknowledge the well-documented drop in the orangutan population.
“From 1973, it was estimated that there were 288,500 orangutans in Borneo and by 2025, it is estimated to drop to 47,000 only.
“And that’s why in 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the orangutan as critically endangered,” he told FMT.
Andrew also said Perhilitan did not operate in Sabah and Sarawak, where orangutans were found.
So, he said, Zuraida’s remarks did little to help the palm oil industry in its efforts to fight criticisms of the industry’s effects on the primates.
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