Only 3 of 8 companies pledge ‘No Deforestation’

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Free Malaysia Today yesterday published Friends of the Orangutans’ press release regarding the threat of further conversion of forests in the Kinabatangan region of Sabah to agriculture crops like oil palm.

Read the PR in full below. We will post further updates on our work to protect forests in our website.

PETALING JAYA: Only three of the eight palm oil companies in Sabah that were contacted by NGO Friends of the Orang-utans (FOTO) have made “No Deforestation” pledges.

According to FOTO director Upreshpal Singh, so far only Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK), Wilmar and Felda Global Ventures (FGV) reiterated their commitment to help protect forests through their “No Deforestation” pledges and acknowledgement of High Conservation Value (HCV) areas.

The NGO claimed they have yet to receive a reply from IOI Group, Graphene Nanochem (Malaysia) and Kwantas Corporation Berhad while Sawit Kinabalu replied to say they did not currently procure CPO from the Kinabatangan region.

Upreshpal explained it was vital there was no further deforestation in Kinabatangan to ensure remaining wildlife habitat in the region including that of orang-utans remained intact.

“Orang-utan habitats in Kinabatangan have been severely decimated mostly from palm oil development and in this case locals are at risk of losing their investment as most of the area mentioned in the scientific paper is prone to flooding.

“Deforestation for whatever purpose will be a lose-lose situation for all,” he explained.

Upreshpal also said commitment by palm oil companies in Sabah to help protect forests in Kinabatangan would help the Sabah State government to cancel any possible oil palm leases on undeveloped land in areas that would either be unproductive or of major conservation value as described in the scientific paper.

“We thank FGV, KLK and Wilmar for their diligence in protecting forests though we acknowledge there is always room for improvement with regard to deforestation.

“In the meantime we will continue to engage with the other companies we have contacted”, Upreshpal concluded.

Shangri-La’s exploitation of orangutans exposed

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Please sign the petition to help orphan orangutans exploited at a luxury, 5-star resort.

Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa is a 5-star holiday resort an hour from Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the Sabah state in Malaysian Borneo.

For over 10 years the Rasa Ria Resort (RR) have been continuously supplied with orphan orangutans from the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) in Sandakan.

According to the Shangri-La website, the purpose of RR’s ‘Orangutan Care’ project is to rehabilitate orangutans (for wild release). The orangutans are later returned to the SORC to continue the rehabilitation process.

However, the Shangri-La Group uses the facade of rehabilitation to exploit the orangutans at the resort through tourism for profit and it’s time this is put to a stop.



Tourists photograph orangutans at RR


Many individuals have expressed concern regarding the treatment and care orangutans at the resort receive. Late last year an orangutan called ‘Tenten’ died at RR. We have asked the Shangri-La Group to publicly announce the number of orangutans who have died at the resort but they have refused to do so while ignoring our request to voluntarily stop the exploitation at RR.

Earlier this year the General Manager of RR claimed “this (the orangutans at RR) is one of the assets that we have here”.

Orangutans at RR are ‘assets’ to make the Shangri-La Group profits and nothing else. Moreover, rehabilitant orangutans don’t belong in a luxury resort. FOTO demands the Shangri-la Group to stop the exploitation of Sabah’s orangutans and return all existing orangutans at RR back to the SORC. No orangutan should be sent to the resort again.

Please take action today by signing the petition and tweeting. The orangutans at RR are counting on us all to help them.

Remember to also join our poster campaign. How it works:

1. Download and print the poster

2. Take a photo of yourself posing with the poster

3. Tweet it! Sample text for photo tweet: Stop exploiting #orangutans @ShangriLaHotels.They aren’t yours to use and abuse.Return them to Sepilok @rrrshangrila

3. Send it to us at

We’re Hiring

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Friends of the Orangutans is hiring!

In our effort to better help orangutans in captivity we are currently looking to recruit a Malaysian on a full time basis:


Position Title:  Orangutan Liaison Officer


• Assist Malaysian zoos in improving husbandry and management of captive orangutans
• Develop, coordinate and run orangutan enrichment programmes in captivity
• Communicate with media outlets, government agencies, zoos, other NGOs, etc
• Perform any other duties assigned by the Director



• Fervent passion and beliefs in animal rights and environmental issues
• Meticulous and consistent approach to work, and ability to produce quality results
• Experience in orangutan conservation would be an added advantage
• Proficient in Bahasa Melayu and English, written and spoken
• Ability to multitask, work independently and meet deadlines with limited supervision
• Willing to relocate within Malaysia and travel, including outside of Malaysia
• Computer proficient
• Commitment to the objectives of the organization
• Applicant must be a Malaysian citizen
• Full time position only


How to apply:

• Email us your resume & include a covering letter to explain why you want to be part of Friends of the Orangutans (FOTO)
• Applications without a covering letter will be rejected.
• Include two (2) contactable referees in your resume
• State your starting expected salary
• Only short-listed candidates will be notified.


Email us at

You may also apply for this post via Jobstreet.

Help Save Mowgli From Exploitation

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Sign the petition to help Mowgli the orangutan in the Malaysian Borneo state of Sabah.

Mowgli, who will turn 13 this year, arrived at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in 2002, at only a month old, after his mother was most likely killed by oil palm plantation workers.

At the tender age of two, the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) sent him to the 6-star Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort hotel, a few hours away from Sepilok, for commercial purposes under the pretense of rehabilitation.

At age five, he was sent to a local zoo in Sabah and was used in animal shows. Mowgli was made to paint, among other tricks he was forced to perform.

Now that Mowgli is too big to be used in the local zoo’s animal shows, the SWD wants to release Mowgli into the Sepilok-Kabili forest to draw more tourists into Sepilok. This may happen soon unless you take action today.

Mowgli is too habituated to humans to be released into the Sepilok-Kabili forest. He may contract diseases from tourists via direct contact or from getting too close. He is growing bigger and stronger, and at this age he can seriously injure tourists. When this happens, it’s him who will pay the price like what may have happened to other orangutans at Sepilok.

Humans must not be exposed to habituated orangutans. The irresponsible parties who have made financial profits from exploiting Mowgli, including the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort, should pay for Mowgli’s lifetime care in captivity, with excellent support including daily enrichment.

Please sign our petition to ask the SWD not to release Mowgli into the Sepilok forest.

Read our Press Release.

Horrific Exploitation of Ex-rehabilitant Orangutan in Sabah Exposed

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Malaysian online paper Free Malaysia Today published a edited version of our Press Release regarding the horror use and exploitation of a ex-rehabilitant orang-utan at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) in Sabah, Malaysia.

Mowgli, who will turn 13 this year, arrived at Sepilok aged only a month old after his mother was likely killed by oil palm plantation workers. Mowgli was sent to the 6-star hotel Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort a few hours away from Sepilok for commercial purposes, but under the pretence of rehabilitation. Next, he was sent to the local zoo and was used in its animal shows and Mowgli was made to paint among others.

The Sabah Wildlife Department now plans to release Mowgli into the Sepilok-Kabili forest. Read below why this must not happen. Friends of the Orangutans is working on this matter and updates will be published here.


Below is the full and unedited version of our Press Release:


A local orangutan NGO is up in arms over what it claims is a case of exploitation of an orangutan in Sabah. Mowgli (13), is an orphan orangutan who arrived at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) for rehabilitation when he was only a month old in 2002, and is said to have been exploited by irresponsible parties since infancy and there are fears over his wellbeing in the near future.

According to Malaysian orangutan NGO, Friends of the Orangutans (FOTO), Mowgli was sent to the Shangri-la Rasa Ria hotel at age two and back at Sepilok three years later and transferred to the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park zoo near Kota Kinabalu, where this orangutan was used in animal shows, performing tricks including painting.

Upreshpal Singh, Director of FOTO said “What has been done to Mowgli is a tragedy. His is a tragic case of orangutan use and abuse, which still happens in Sabah till this day. He has been on the receiving end since only a month old, when his mother was likely killed by oil palm plantation workers.

“He was sent to the Rasa Ria hotel for commercial purposes under the pretense of rehabilitation and next to the Lok Kawi zoo to be used in shows. His chances of an independant life in the forest was wrecked since he was an infant, and this is utterly unacceptable.”

Singh added the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) indicated to the NGO that Mowgli will be rehabilitated at the SORC for eventual release into the Sepilok-Kabili forest, which is 4,400 hectares in size. This comes after Mowgli had lived in the Lok Kawi zoo and also used in animal performances.

“After years of exploitation, Mowgli will now be used to woo tourists at Sepilok, this has got nothing to do with rehabilitation. A 12 year old ex performing male orangutan is not a candidate for wild release and the only reason Mowgli isn’t used at Lok Kawi zoo any longer is because he has become too big to handle. As he doesn’t have the skills to survive on his own, Mowgli will depend on daily food rationing at the SORC feeding platform, thus enabling tourists to be titillated by the presence of him and other orangutans.”

Friends of the Orangutans is asking the SWD to not release Mowgli into the Sepilok-Kabili forest for the safety of tourists, other orangutans and Mowgli himself, explaining that Mowgli might contract disease from tourists (and vice-versa), putting the health of his and other orangutans in the Sepilok-Kabili forest at risk. Tourism is also not allowed in great ape rehabilitation centres, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines.

“For some months now we have privately asked the SWD not to send Mowgli to Sepilok, but all our pleas were ignored. Mowgli is too habituated to be released into the Sepilok-Kabili forest and may contract disease from tourist from touching or getting too close to them. Moreover, he will be 13 years old this year, growing bigger and stronger, and at this age can seriously injure tourists. And when this happens, it’s him who will pay the price, like what has likely happened to other orangutans from reports we have received from unknown individuals. Those irresponsible parties who have made profits from exploiting Mowgli, including the Rasa Ria Resort, should now pay for Mowgli’s lifetime care in captivity, with excellent care including daily enrichment provided.”

Singh also added the whereabouts of another orangutan is also unknown, and the NGO is concerned.

“More than a year ago we reported to SWD about Jackie the orangutan, a seemingly habituated wild orangutan who was also a tourist attraction at the Ranau Poring Hot Springs area. We were told she would also be sent to Sepilok but we have not got any updates on her despite numerous attempts to seek answers from SWD.”

The Director of FOTO concluded by urging all tourists to stay away from the SORC until Mowgli and Jackie’s future is resolved and that there is confirmation the former will not be released into the Sepilok-Kabili forest.

“Please don’t go to Sepilok to see orangutans until we know Mowgli and Jackie are safe and their future secured.”



Katarina Update

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Katarina update:

She has found to be in good health, physically and mentally, and disease free! Taiping Zoo is now trying to integrate Katarina with the other orangutans in the night den, and all the signs are good so far. Eventually the zoo will introduce Katarina to the other orangutans at the zoo (there are now four females at the zoo including Katarina).

In other good news, the zoo is upgrading its orangutan enclosure. All orangutans will remain off exhibit for now. Their den is connected to two exercise yards so they remain physically active.

More updates will be posted here as we get them.

25,000 Hectares of Forest in Sabah in Jeopardy

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The Lower Kinabatangan region of Sabah is at risk of more deforestation for palm oil. Orangutans, Borneo pygmy elephants and other animals live in this part of Sabah too. Forests in the Lower Kinabatangan is already much affected by fragmentation mostly due to palm oil development.

We are working hard to obtain more information on this matter.

There are approximately 11,000 orangutans (Pongo Pygmaeus Morio subspecies) left in the Malaysian Borneo state of Sabah with more than 1,000 of them in the Lower Kinabatangan region.

Full details on this matter is available in our Press Release below:


Huge forest under threat from ‘unsuitable’ oil palm

KOTA KINABALU: A huge swathe of forest in Sabah stretching for 100km on the Lower Kinabatangan is in danger of being lost by conversion to oil palm planting, despite being unsuitable, says a wildlife conservation group.

The forest covers 25,000 hectares and is under threat of conversion to oil palm, says Upreshpal Singh, director of the Friends of the Orangutan group, quoting a published study.

He said the study entitled, “Synergies for Improving Oil Palm Production and Forest Conservation in Floodplain Landscapes” and published by had concluded that “this huge area of forest is unsuitable for any form of agricultural planting, as two-thirds of it are seasonally flooded. Worse, if this same area is turned in oil palm plantations, an additional 15,000 hectares of failed planting will happen”.

He urged the state government to turn the forest into a wildlife sanctuary or Class I forest reserve and to cancel all plans for deforestation in the Kinabatangan region.

“No one will benefit from oil palm plantation in this area, we’re talking about massive amounts of financial loss for smallholders,” he said. “The problem of fragmented forests in the Kinabatangan region will only get worse and will thus increase the problem of wildlife-human conflict, and it’s the orangutans and other animals who will suffer.

“The lower parts of the Lower Kinabatangan floodplain have lost most of their forest cover following conversion to agriculture. Scientific studies also revealed that the remaining orangutan population is a mere 5 to 10% of the original numbers in the area”.

He urged Sabah chief minister Musa Aman, to protect the forest before it is gone forever, taking along with it the remaining orangutans, pygmy elephants and other animals.

He said great ape tourism in Africa raked in millions of tourist dollars every year, while responsible and ethical orangutan tourism in the wilderness of Sabah is virtually non-existent. This can not only be another reason to protect our forests, but also increase the income of local communities.”


Link to full Press Release:

‘Synergies for Improving Oil Palm Production and Forest Conservation in Floodplain Landscapes’ can be download from here.

Katarina Saved!

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Friends of the Orangutan wishes to thank all supporters who played a part in getting Katarina transferred from the horrific Kuala Lipis Zoo in the Malaysian Peninsular to Taiping Zoo, 3 hours north of Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. This campaign started in November, after private negotiations with the Malaysian Wildlife Department failed to get Katarina moved out of the Lipis Zoo.

After a long, hard campaign, she was finally transferred on 12th February 2015.

We have received tremendous amount of support from supporters within Malaysia and around the world, and the petition for Katarina, which will be closed today 16th of February, has gathered over 14,500 signatures! On the 6th of February, we delivered this petition to the Malaysian Prime Minister’s office. We have also received a lot of support through social media platforms including Twitter, asking the authorities here to take Katarina out of the Lipis Zoo. Every single action by supporters has played a part.

Our campaign actually called for Katarina to be transferred to the Matang Wildlife Sanctuary, a sanctuary where orangutans and other animals live. It is managed by the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC). Matang is actually the best place in Malaysia for captive orangutans. We have campaigned hard and done the best we could to get Katarina transferred there. However, the final decision on where Katarina should go rests on the Malaysian Wildlife Department, as they are the authority.

Taiping Zoo is head by the president of the Malaysian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (MAZPA). It is one of the better zoos in Malaysia. Katarina will be a much happier orangutan at this zoo.

We will also be visiting Katarina and will bring updates and photos to post here.

We wish to thank you again for all the kind and relentless support from you, friends of Katarina, to help get her out of the Lipis Zoo. We could not have done this without you!

Media release regarding Katarina’s transfer:

Friends of the Orangutans have more campaigns and projects coming up this year, stay tuned!

Note: Photo of Katarina in the banner above was taken at her previous home, the Kuala Lipis Zoo

Two zoos commit to enrichment programmes

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Following dialogues between us and two Malaysian zoos, Melaka Zoo and A’Famosa Resort Safari Zoo (both approximately 2 hours south of Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur), both have agreed to start enrichment programmes for their orangutans, 11 in total.

Just getting zoos here to agree to adopt an enrichment programme is a big progress for captive orangutans in Malaysia, considering the standard of husbandry and care provided for animals in captivity in general here.

Friends of the Orangutans is working hard to help make both zoo’s commitment a reality.

Updates will be posted here.

Help us get Katarina the orangutan sent to a sanctuary

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While imported pandas from China are given VIP treatment daily at Malaysia’s Zoo Negara, Katarina, an orangutan who spends her days alone in squalid and deplorable conditions, is given quite the opposite treatment at the Kuala Lipis Zoo in the state of Pahang.

Katarina is a victim of the illegal wildlife trade. She was kept as a pet and after she became too big to handle was given up to the Lipis zoo, three years ago. She is estimated to be between 10 and 12 years old.

Visitors can freely feed Katarina junk food or even try to get her smoke cigarettes. There is no supervision of visitors and the zoo is not in a state to meet the needs of Katarina, as it is also severely underfunded. She is the only orangutan there and needs to be moved so that she can start to exhibit natural behaviours in an environment more suited to a sub-adult orangutan.

Katarina receives no enrichment. Her night cage is completely void of any bedding nor enrichment tool and she is forced to sit on cold concrete everyday for at least 12 hours after the zoo is closed.

After suffering for many years, it is time she is relocated to the Matang Wildlife Centre in Sarawak, where the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) provides captive care for orangutans at its sanctuary.

At least RM 60 million ($18 million) has been spent on two pandas from China. The least that can be done for poor Katarina is for the Environment Ministry Malaysia to take her out of her misery and send her to the Matang sanctuary.

Please help Katarina by taking action as per below to get Katarina relocated to the Matang Wildlife Centre sanctuary urgently.


Action One

Sign and share the petition below.

Action Two

Tweet the Malaysian Environment Minister at the link below. Only two clicks needed to post your tweet.


Thank you for caring about Katarina.