KUCHING, May 19 — Environmental and wildlife groups today slammed Plantation and Commodity Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani's suggestion to take Borneo’s orangutans out of their natural habitats and send them as gifts around the world to nations that buy Malaysian palm oil.

Sarawak human rights activist Peter John Jaban, speaking on behalf of the environmental and wildlife groups urged Johari to focus on cleaning up the palm oil industry as a means to improve its reputation instead of engaging in silly stunts.

“Instead of sending the apes as gifts, the minister should invite oil palm plantation companies in Borneo island and the international media to learn more about the country's orangutan conservation projects and to provide financial support to any orangutan conservation in Malaysia and Indonesia.

“His idea to send these sensitive, critically endangered animals out into the world is a clear message that Borneo no longer has the rainforests to house them in their natural habitats.

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“This is not a commitment to biodiversity conservation. Instead, this is a gift with purchase,” he said in a statement today.

He said the minister has demonstrated how out of touch he is with modern conservation ideals.

“Orangutans in the wild live exclusively in the rainforest canopy. They range across huge territories in family groups,” he said.

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He said Johari’s idea to lock them up in zoos around the world showed that he never engaged with conservation and wildlife experts before suggesting the move.

“Or is he focusing more on plantations and commodities than conservation and wildlife?

“The commitment he should be showing to biodiversity conservation is to conserve the habitats in which that biodiversity can thrive, just as the palm oil industry moves to more sustainable and responsible practices,” Jaban said.

On May 8 Johari said Malaysia intended to introduce “orangutan diplomacy” to palm oil trading countries, describing the approach as a diplomatic strategy through which Malaysia 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.

He said, through his X account post, that in adopting orangutan diplomacy, Malaysia aimed to demonstrate its unwavering commitment to biodiversity conservation.