KUCHING, May 20 — Sarawak Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah today shot down federal Plantations and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani’s proposal to give orangutans as gifts to countries that buy palm oil from Malaysia.

He said the suggestion for Malaysia to offer the protected primate species as part of an economic deal is not a good idea.

“If you ask me, on a personal note, I don’t agree,” he told reporters after the launch of the Sarawak Tourism Destination Resilience Workshop here.

“There is no need to give away orangutans as gifts and I hope that the report on the minister’s suggestion is not true.

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“We can give, but in the form of ‘patung’,” Karim said, using the Malay word for a doll.

He said orangutans are a state heritage and must be protected.

“We take care of our orangutans very well. We will make sure that their habitats are not spoiled by the cutting of trees for plantations, but certainly not by giving them away as gifts.

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“The best place for them to live is their natural habitats, not in the zoos of those countries which are buying palm from Malaysia,” he said.

He said the natural habitats are only found in Sarawak, Sabah and Kalimantan. Karim said the Sarawak Forest Department is doing very good in the conservation of orangutans.

“At the Semenggok rehabilitation centre, the orangutans keep on multiplying,” he said.

According to an official of the state Forest Department who attended the workshop, the population of orangutans in Sarawak is between 1,800 and 2,500 in the national parks.

He said that there are 28 orangutans at the Semenggok rehabilitation centre and 17 at the Matang wildlife sanctuary. On May 8, Johari suggested that Malaysia could gift its orangutans to boost trade and foreign relations with the European Union, India, and China.

Following his participation in the Malaysian Palm Oil Green Conservation Foundation’s Biodiversity Forum, Johari said Malaysia aimed to demonstrate Malaysia’s unwavering commitment to biodiversity conservation.