When profits rule – Sepilok orangutan release disaster

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On 3 October 2018, an orangutan called Tiger was moved from the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) to the Tabin Wildlife Reserve (TWR) forest and released there. The TWR is a Protected forest in eastern Sabah.

Tiger’s release into to the TWR, reportedly funded by British organisation Orangutan Appeal UK (OAUK) and the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), was labelled as a “proud day for Sabah’s wildlife conservation initiative” by Dr Sen Nathan, Assistant Director of the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD). The SWD facilitated Tiger’s release. OUAK founder Sue Sheward stated that with the release “yet another magnificent orangutan was saved.”  

Tiger arrived at the SORC as a two-year-old orphan to undergo rehabilitation for forest release. He was 20 at the time of release into the TWR.

The high-profile release was a failure as, only two months after his release, in December 2018, Tiger had to be located by SWD staff to transfer him back to the SORC. According to sources he has since been kept in a cage, 24/7.

 

Tiger now in a cage at SORC

 

In August 2019, nine months after Tiger was relocated back to the SORC, we found out that the centre kept playing a video which included scenes of Tiger’s release, for visitors to the SORC. Visitors were unaware that while they watched the video, believing Tiger was living a free orangutan at the TWR, he was in a cage at the centre. We are currently unaware if the SORC has stopped playing this video. Possibly thousands of visitors had been misled.

According to an SWD bulletin Tiger had to be taken back to the SORC as he “managed to return to [a] farm area for food and stayed“. This shows that this orangutan is too habituated to humans. It is also likely that he lacks the ability to forage for food in a forest.

The public may not be aware that Tiger had previously been released into the TWR, in 2017. According to a source, the first released failed as he had to be brought back to the SORC after he ventured into a palm oil plantation and became a risk to humans. Plantation workers could have injured or killed Tiger.

According to a news report Tiger had also been released into the Sepilok-Kabili Forest Reserve (SKFR). (The SKFR is adjacent to the SORC. Many SORC orangutans have been released into this forest). However, only several weeks after the release a “terrified plantation owner ran[g] the centre asking them to come and get Tiger as he had been found trying to make off on a worker’s motorbike.”

We believe the failed release attempts are the consequence of Tiger’s humanisation (over habituation to, and/or overdependency on, humans), caused by the unsustainable and unethical tourism and voluntourism practices at the SORC. Humanisation can affect orangutans’ ability to build nests and forage in a forest. It causes the apes to lose their fear of humans and makes them far too comfortable with human presence and diverts their interest away from natural behaviours and interactions within the forest environment. This can increase their proximity to humans, escalating both the risk of attacks on humans and the risk of the apes contracting a disease from humans.

It appears that the Sabah state government gives precedence to financial gain from tourism over the future of orphan orangutans at the SORC.

 

Tiger trying to mount a motorbike in a palm oil plantation after outside SKFR. Photo: Advertiser & Times

 

After Tiger’s second release into the TWR, Dr Nathan was quoted in a media report as saying that the SORC is “too small” for Tiger and felt he would “survive better in the wild”. How small could the SORC be that Tiger has to be now kept in a cage at the centre?

We discovered that before the release in October 2018, the founder of a British orangutan organisation which supports the SORC privately expressed concern that significant problems could arise if the media found out about the behaviour of several (humanised) SORC orangutans. These male apes – named Ceria, Sen, Mowgly and Poogle – are apparently a physical risk to tourists and staff (when left to roam around the centre). Sources also revealed that the SORC was close to getting sued by a tour company for safety negligence caused by a humanised orangutan. If these apes only inhabited the forest adjacent to the SORC, surely they wouldn’t be deemed a risk?

Humanised orangutans have attacked tourists at the SORC (see here and here), and large male orangutans can sometimes be seen at centre.

Sources informed us that before his release into the TWR, Tiger was kept in a cage for an extended period of time. If this is true, might the SWD have deemed it too dangerous to let a large, humanised orangutan roaming around the centre?

Ironically, spending considerable time in a cage is likely to humanise Tiger even more, as he will be dependant on the SORC staff to care for him. Sources informed us that Sen and Ceria are now also kept in a cage at the SORC.

Were Tiger’s release attempts into the TWR really about conservation? All that is stated above undoubtedly raises serious doubts about the real reasons for the SWD’s relocation of Tiger out of the SORC.

The SWD appears to have plans to release two other humanised SORC orangutans into the TWR under questionable circumstances. We have asked the SWD about this. They have not responded.

Unlike the fanfare caused by the SWD when Tiger was released into the TWR, the department remained silent about his return to the SORC until a media article reported this orangutan’s failed release. We believe that the SWD decided to not inform the Malaysian media about Tiger’s return to the SORC to avoid embarrassment and questions being raised about the department’s management and rehabilitation of orangutans at the SORC.

In response to the media article, the director of the SWD, Augustine Tuuga, stated in September 2019 that the department would once again try to release Tiger into a “suitable” forest. There has been no news about a release since then.

We’d also like to ask. If in the media report stated above Dr Nathan was actually referring to the Sepilok-Kabili Forest Reserve (SKFR) being too small for Tiger, does this mean that the SWD has stopped releasing SORC orangutans into the SKFR after completing rehabilitation?

Because of the SWD and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment (KePKAS) Sabah’s insistence on prioritizing profits at the SORC, Tiger’s future is in serious doubt and he could be destined for a life in captivity.

We welcome the SWD and the KePKAS Ministry to respond to this article.

 

British company folds, but will orangutan exploitation at Sepilok end?

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Published on 5 March 2020.

15 July 2020 update – Travellers Worldwide ceased trading in February 2020. The Sabah Wildlife Department confirmed in June 2020 that members of the public would not be allowed to take part in the rehabilitation process of orangutans at the SORC any longer. Read our statement here.

 

We have previously highlighted how British company, Travellers Worldwide, had been exploiting orphan orangutans at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) through their volunteering programme. The SORC is managed by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), the state wildlife agency under the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment (KePKAS) Sabah, With the approval of the SWD, the programme involved unqualified individuals paying to join the rehabilitation for wild (forest) release of orphan orangutans at the SORC.

We have explained why the volunteering (or rather, voluntourism) programme needed to stop. We also explained to the company, SWD, and KePKAS. No one responded.

At the end of February 2020, Travellers Worldwide ceased doing business entirely (not as a result of our campaign).

We are concerned that a different company or the SWD/KePKAS ministry itself might continue to exploit the SORC orangutans through another volunteering programme.

After Travellers Worldwide’s closure, we wrote to the KePKAS minister, Christina Liew, and the SWD to explain why the programme should not continue. We have yet to receive a response. Neither KePKAS or the SWD have publicly confirmed that the volunteering programme will stop completely.

.We ask our supporters to send a tweet to the minister to remind her that the programme should not continue. We have created the tweet for you, CLICK HERE to tweet now.

The SORC is a controversial orangutan rehabilitation centre, and the SWD’s management of the centre is highly questionable. For almost 20 years, the SWD supplied orangutan infants from the SORC to a luxury hotel in Sabah on the false pretence of rehabilitation. We campaigned and stopped the exploitation in 2016.

The SORC is open to tourism, which goes against the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) guidelines on great ape tourism. Read how tourism at the SORC impacts orangutans.

We have previously received reports of SORC orangutans mugging tourists of their belongings and have been told of ‘problem’ orangutans allegedly suspiciously vanishing from the SORC; KePKAS and SWD officials did not respond when they were asked about this.

One SORC orangutan’s future is in serious doubt, and the SWD appears to have plans to release two orangutans into a forest reserve under questionable circumstances.

Tell Travellers Worldwide, stop exploiting Sepilok orangutans!

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Published on 6 November 2019

15 July 2020 update – Travellers Worldwide ceased trading in February 2020. The Sabah Wildlife Department confirmed in June 2020 that members of the public would not be allowed to take part in the rehabilitation process of orangutans at the SORC any longer. Read our statement here. However, we highly recommend that you read the article below to understand why hands-on orangutan voluntourism should not take place at a rehabilitation centre.

 

Travellers Worldwide is a British company which is refusing to stop the exploitation of Critically Endangered Malaysian orangutans, an animal at risk of extinction. The exploitation is approved by the Sabah Wildlife Department, the Sabah state wildlife agency which manages the SORC.

Every four weeks the company sends up to 12 unqualified individuals to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) in the Malaysian Bornean state of Sabah, Malaysia, for them to take part in the rehabilitation of orphan orangutans. Each individual pays around US$ 3,400. This is simply another form of exploitative voluntourism.

According to the Travellers Worldwide website, the volunteers can, among others, monitor, feed and manage orangutans who are under rehabilitation for potential forest release in the future. However, this voluntourism practice can have severe impacts on orangutans under rehabilitation and yet has continued for over 15 years.

Orangutans undergoing rehabilitation should only be exposed to, and bond with, the minimal number of caregivers as possible in their early years as the apes are guided through the rehabilitation process. Rehabilitation at the SORC should be done by SORC staff only.

Having ever-changing personnel working hands-on with rehabilitant orangutans increases the risk of the apes becoming humanised (over habituation to, and/or overdependency on, humans). Humanisation diverts the orangutans’ interest away from natural behaviours and interactions within the forest environment.

It is no surprise that the SORC has for many years faced major problems with humanised orangutans, made worse by its unsustainable orangutan tourism. Humanised orangutans have also attacked tourists at the SORC.

Orangutan conservationists have warned that humanising rehabilitant orangutans can:

– encourage terrestriality, which has been linked to increased vulnerability to predation
– affect their nest building and foraging skills, thus hampering an orangutan’s chances of living independently in a forest
– cause the apes to lose their fear of humans and makes them far too comfortable with human presence. This can increase their proximity to humans, which in turn can increase:
– the risk of attacks on humans
– the risk of contracting disease from humans (e.g., hepatitis, tuberculosis, influenza)
– their vulnerability to poachers and hunters

The last three points above refer especially to ex-rehabilitants who have been released into a forest. All points above can have dire consequences on the future of a species fighting for its survival.

The conservationists also recommend that orangutan rehabilitation be limited to a closed, qualified and stable group of people who always work with the same orangutans, ideally through their entire rehabilitation. These few dedicated caregivers promote trust and provide social and emotional support to rehabilitants.

Exemplary orangutan rehabilitation centres, such as those run by reputable organizations International Animal Rescue and the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP), do not allow tourism, including volunteerism.

We informed Travellers Worldwide the effects their volunteering practice can have on the rehabilitant orangutans at the SORC, yet they have chosen to ignore us in favour of continuing to exploit Malaysian orangutans.

We call on the new Sabah state government and its Environment Minister, Datuk Christina Liew to put an end to the exploitation to help with the future of Sabah’s orangutans.

Sepilok orangutan tourism – here’s what’s wrong

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Published 9 October 2019. Latest update made on 10 October 2020

 

The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) is owned by the Sabah state government and managed by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), a government agency under the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment (KePKAS) Sabah. At the SORC, orphan orangutans are put through a rehabilitation process to prepare them for release into a forest. The centre is at the edge of the Sepilok-Kabili Forest Reserve (SKFR), where the centre’s ex-rehabilitant orangutans (released into forest after completion of rehabilitation) co-range with wild orangutans (born in the SKFR and not ex-rehabilitants).

 

The SORC is open to the public for tourism. The tourism at the SORC, however, does not follow the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Best Practice Guidelines for Great Ape Tourism and, as a result, negatively impacts the apes and can put tourists in danger. Below are several points from the guidelines, concerning the SORC, followed by our comments. The full guidelines are available here.

 

Pg. 10 – Consequently, experts recommend that no tourism be allowed with rehabilitant orangutans that are eligible for or already returned to forest life

Pg. 58 – No tourism should be allowed with reintroducable orangutans in rehabilitation centres, or in forests where rehabilitants range

The SWD and KePKAS ignore this recommendation. This advice must be adhered to minimise the risk of orangutans (both rehabilitant and ex-rehabilitant) becoming humanised (over habituation to, and/or overdependency on, humans). During twice-a-day visiting hours at the SORC, tourists can pay to enter and see orangutans eating on a platform in the SKFR. Orangutans still undergoing rehabilitation have also been seen at the platform.

For more than 15 years until early 2020, the SWD allowed members of the public to pay and be part of the rehabilitation process (another form of tourism) at the SORC, humanising the apes to humans from a young age. Humanised orangutans released into the SKFR are then exposed to large numbers of tourists daily – exacerbating the humanisation impact.

According to conservationists, the effect of humanisation on orangutans undergoing rehabilitation can, among others:

 

– encourage terrestriality, which has been linked to increased vulnerability to predation
– affect their nest building and foraging skills, thus hampering an orangutan’s chances of living independently in a forest
– cause the apes to lose their fear of humans and makes them far too comfortable with human presence. This can increase their proximity to humans, which in turn can increase:
– the risk of attacks on humans
– the risk of contracting disease from humans (e.g., hepatitis, tuberculosis, influenza)
– their vulnerability to poachers and hunters

The last three points above refer especially to ex-rehabilitants who have been released into a forest. All points above can have dire consequences on the future of a Critically Endangered species fighting for its survival.

 

Orangutans are known to roam terrestrially around the SORC. They have also been seen at hotels and other tourist attractions outside the SORC. Research has shown that tourism at the SORC can increase the risk of disease transmission to the orangutans.

 

While staff do try to control the crowds during visiting hours at the SORC, it is a challenge to manage the movement of every tourist and humanised orangutan, as our video shows. Tourists have been attacked at the SORC (see here and here). We have previously received reports of orangutans mugging tourists of their belongings and have been told of ‘problem’ orangutans allegedly suspiciously vanishing from the SORC; SWD and KePKAS officials did not respond when they were asked about this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A worker at a hotel near SORC feeding an orangutan, with unsuspecting tourists present

 

Pg. 10 – Orangutan tourism focused on rehabilitants, especially when visited in unnatural contexts such as cages and feeding platforms and by extremely large numbers of visitors, does not meet many of the criteria that define ecotourism and as such should not be promoted as ecotourism or considered best practice.

The purpose of having a twice a day feeding sessions at the SORC is to lure orangutans to the feeding platform, to enable tourists to see and photograph them. While we’re unaware whether the SORC has been labelled as an ecotourism attraction, tour companies may label the SORC as an ecotourism destination to lure customers.

This practice is unlikely to be without consequences. A study published in 2008 has revealed that the infant orangutan death rate is higher at the SORC than in zoos. The authors of the study stated that the possible increase in disease transmission and aggression that resulted from frequent close encounters among orangutans gathered at the feeding platform might be one reason for this high death rate.

 

Pg. 48 – To facilitate the control of visitors, minimise danger and enhance visitor satisfaction, the number of people per party should be no more than 4 tourists accompanied by 2 guides/trackers. This should achieve a reasonable balance between apes and humans, and reduce stress and its knock-on effects.

We are not aware if there is an entry limit to SORC, but it’s certainly not four. In fact, depending on the month of the year, over ten times the recommended amount of tourists by the IUCN can be seen during a feeding session.

 

Pg. 49 – There should be no more than one visit per day to each group of apes (or individual/ party/forest area in the case of chimpanzee and orangutan tourism).

The SORC has twice a day feeding session. Having more than one visit per day increases the instance of humanisation and in turn, increase disease transmission and physical risks between humans-orangutans at the SORC.

 

Pg. 49 – All tourists and staff who are likely to approach habituated apes to within 10 metres should wear a surgical quality N95 respirator mask for the duration of their one-hour visit. Respirators that filter out higher percentages of aerosolised particles are also acceptable (i.e., N99 or N100).

Since our investigations began at the SORC nearly ten years ago until early 2020, we have never observed tourists visiting the centre being obliged to wear a face mask, and we have only rarely seen staff in charge of tourists wearing one. The COVID-19 outbreak forced the suspension of tourism at the Sepilok area in March 2019. The SORC reopened for tourism in June 2020. Although tourists have been required to wear a face mask since reopening, images show lax enforcement of this requirement. The centre suspended tourism for the second time in September 2020 following the increase in COVID-19 cases in Sabah.

The use of respirator or face masks should be made mandatory including post-COVID-19 period, and they should be worn properly at all times, because:

a) Humanised orangutans at the SORC tend to come within 10 metres of tourists. There is also photographic and video evidence of orangutans at the SORC grabbing hold of tourists. (See here and here).

b) Research has shown that tourists who are ill do visit the SORC, and this has included people showing symptoms of respiratory illness. This increases the risk of pathogen transmission to orangutans and staff.

 

 

Pg. 50 – Children below 15 years old must not be allowed to visit great apes. While parents may argue against this regulation on the basis that their child is capable of the hike or mature enough to control their fear, this safeguard is primarily for health reasons. Young people are more likely to be infected with common childhood diseases, even when properly vaccinated, and therefore pose a much greater health risk to habituated apes.

Children under the age of 15 can often be seen at the centre.

 

 

Pg. 57 – Individual orangutans should not be visited by tourists for more than 10 days per month. Tourism to individual orangutans should be suspended for at least 3 months per year. Note that if all habituated orangutans at a particular site use the same area of forest, periodic closure of the site is recommended.

SORC is open to tourism 365 days a year. Many of the same orangutans can regularly be seen at the SORC.

Additional note:

The Sabah Wildlife Department may argue that tourists are not allowed into areas where the rehabilitation process of SORC orangutans take place. However, for more than 15 years until early 2020, the SWD allowed members of the public to pay and be part of the rehabilitation process at the SORC, as stated above. This voluntourism practice would have humanised orphans undergoing rehabilitation for wild release. In addition, it is wrong to assume that orangutans are successfully rehabilitated when let/moved out of rehabilitation areas: they still have to learn and persistently prove that they can forage and survive independently and integrate into a forest’s orangutan community – away from tourists. This, however, may be a challenge at the SORC. A British orangutan organisation which supports the SORC made the statement below regarding the previous sending of orphaned SORC orangutans to a luxury hotel in Sabah under the guise of rehabilitation. FOTO stopped the exploitation in 2016. The highlighted parts below may refer to the effect of humanised orangutans at the SORC on orangutans undergoing rehabilitation at the centre.

 

Source: https://www.orangutan-appeal.org.uk/about-us/news/article/a-short-satement-regarding-the-facts-surrounding-ten-ten

 

Further reading about the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre:

No transparency from Sabah wildlife authorities on welfare concerns of 6 Sepilok orangutans

Perilous orangutan tourism resumes at Sepilok amid COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19: Time for change at Sepilok Orangutan Rehab Centre

SWD’s dubious plan to release two orphaned Sepilok orangutans

When profits rule – Sepilok orangutan release disaster

 

Have questions? Click here to write to us.

British company refuses to stop exploitation of Malaysia’s orangutans

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Travellers Worldwide is a British company which offers volunteering opportunities around the world. One of these places is at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) in Malaysia. SORC is owned and managed by the Sabah state government. According to the website of the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), “The aim of Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is to return orphaned, injured or displaced orangutans back to the wild.”

Volunteers organised by Travellers Worldwide (TW) are placed for four weeks at SORC before a different group of 12 volunteers arrive to replace them. According to TW’s website (as of October 2019) each volunteer pays $3,180. Among other activities at SORC these volunteers are involved in the rehabilitation of orphan orangutans at the centre.

In September 2018 Friends of the Orangutans Malaysia wrote to TW to explain why this practice needs to be changed; TW volunteers can play an important role at SORC but without contact/potential contact with the orangutans undergoing rehabilitation for wild release. Unfortunately TW have thus far not shown us any interest in addressing our concerns. Therefore, in October 2019 we wrote again to TW to ask that the volunteering programme at SORC ceases and we have given a reasonable time frame for this to happen. Should TW refuse, FOTO Malaysia will campaign until the exploitation stops.

 

scsC

We compared this volunteering practice with two orangutan rehabilitation centres in Indonesia which conforms to International Union for Conservation of Nature’s best practice guidelines for great apes. At both rehabilitation centres only a handful of permanent, full time staff are directly involved in the rehabilitation process of their orangutans. SORC does have full time staff working at the centre on a daily basis but the two Indonesian centres do not allow volunteers to work with orangutans. Infact, one of the centres does not allow any form of volunteering.

Without their mothers orphan orangutans need familiarity, trust and bond with as minimal amount of caregivers as possible in their early years as the apes are guided through the rehabilitation process. Besides, having ever changing personnel working hands on with rehabilitant orangutans increases the risk of the orangutans becoming far too comfortable with humans, thus increasing the instance of human habituation. This could effect the chances of rehabilitant orangutans becoming viable wild release candidates.

Orangutan conservationists have also informed us that the volunteering practice at SORC needs to cease completely. Friends of the Orangutans Malaysia continues to urge Travellers Worldwide to cease the current volunteering practices at SORC and stop the exploitation of Malaysia’s orangutans.

Poor treatment for orangutans at Kemaman Zoo continues

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In January last year photos and reports showing the eye-watering treatment of orangutans and other animals at Kemaman Zoo in Terengganu made headlines in the media. The conditions seen in the reports were not new though. Animals at Kemaman Zoo have been kept in poor conditions for years and despite receiving flak a year ago it appears so far that little has changed at the zoo.
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When Kemaman Zoo was exposed last year Perhilitan, the wildlife department, dismissed all allegations of poor welfare of animals at the zoo. In contrast, the Malaysian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (Mazpa) took action and suggested improvements to the zoo and we thank Mazpa for being transparent and sincere with their findings. Since then the zoo has made minimal changes at both orangutan enclosures but they are still insufficient to meet the intricate needs of captive orangutans.
 
According to a June 2018 news report a stunning RM 60 million had been spent on expanding a state owned zoo which is reportedly bleeding money. How much was spent to upgrade the existing shoddy state of animals?
 
The latest photos we received, which have been verified, show the continued substandard welfare conditions for orangutans with no sign of an enrichment programme in place. Kemaman Zoo has two enclosures for its orangutans. The indoor enclosure consist of large and smaller concrete cages and they are almost barren and there is nothing for the orangutans to do. The sight of the orangutans in the cages is a disgraceful one and will leave any zoo visitor to wonder why in this day and age Malaysia still keeps orangutans in such manner. Orangutans are intelligent animals and poor captive situations like at Kemaman Zoo can lead to psychological and physical problems. 
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The outdoor enclosure needs to be worked on. We have been informed that it tends to flood when the zoo is inundated with rain water, which may occur more often during the monsoon season in the east coast of the Peninsular. A staff at Kemaman town council (Majlis Perbandaran Kemaman) claimed in confidence that there is no proper moat drainage at the outdoor orangutan enclosure. We will leave for state officials to comment on this.
 
When the outdoor enclosure is overwhelmed with water it is dangerous to let the orangutans out, and this leaves them spending more time in the cages. Water moats as barriers should be avoided in the first place as it increases the risk of drowning, which happened to an orangutan at Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, Sabah in the past.
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All our emails to state officials and the zoo last year were not replied to. In June Terengganu menteri besar Dr. Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar welcomed assistance for the zoo and despite this state and zoo officials never responded to our offer to meet and help. Clearly the welfare of animals is not a concern of top zoo and state officials responsible for the zoo.
 
The sorry state of our orangutans and other wildlife at Kemaman Zoo needs to change. Instead of spending more money expanding the zoo and importing animals the state should spend on improving welfare of existing animals. We urge the public to boycott this zoo until vast changes have been made. We also ask KATS Minister Dr. Xavier Jayakumar to help the animals.
Photos: Malaysian Friends of Animals. Used with permission.

Company owned by Malaysians clearing PNG forests

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Friends of the Orangutans Malaysia has published a press release to bring to light the clearing of forests in Papua New Guinea by a vcompany owned by a Malaysian family. Satellite images showing continued clearing in the palm oil company’s development area available at this link. Four photos in the same link courtesy of Global Witness. You have permission to reprint the press release below and use the satellite images and photos. Please credit Global Witness for the photos.

 

PRESS RELEASE, 30th August 2018 – Company owned by Malaysians clearing PNG forests.

A palm oil company owned by a prominent Malaysian family is threatening Papua New Guinea’s unique forest ecosystem and is presenting a serious risk to palm oil industry sustainability policies, according to NGO Friends of the Orangutans Malaysia [FOTO].

The Bewani Oil Palm Plantations Limited [BOPPL], headquartered in Vanimo, Papua New Guinea, has cleared an estimated 25,000 hectares of forests including an estimated 12,000 ha in the last four years since obtaining a lease for the palm oil development project in 2010, claims FOTO.

“BOPPL obtained a lease for almost 140,000 of forests eight years ago. These are pristine rainforests are made up of primary and secondary forests. Destroying forests for palm oil or any other agricultural crop is unacceptable and must stop”, says NGO director Upreshpal Singh.

FOTO adds that BOPPL holds a Special Agricultural Business Lease, or SABL, which is an agricultural lease given out to developers by the PNG government on behalf of customary landowners.

In 2013, a report by the PNG Commission of Inquiry into the Special Agriculture & Business Leases found widespread abuse, fraud and lack of accountability and transparency, among others, in the awarding of SABLs in the country. The commission report, which accused BOPPL as a company with a “chequered history”, also recommended that its SABL be revoked[1].

In early 2017, PNG’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced that all SABLs in the country had been declared illegal and that they should be revoked[2], while earlier this year a PNG online news portal reported that BOPPL’s lease had been cancelled following a court decision due irregularities in the awarding process of SABLs [3], though this was contested in a major PNG newspaper owned by Malaysian logging giant Rimbunan Hijau[4].

FOTO adds that despite the uncertain legal status of BOPPL’s operations the company had continued to clear forests and satellite images show that clearing was taking place as of July this year. The company plans to plant 20,000 ha of oil palm trees by 2020[5] .

BOPPL is owned by nine members of the prominent Malaysian Tee family[6], who are also shareholders of eight palm oil mills in Peninsular Malaysia. These mills appear in the supply chains of companies with sustainable purchasing policy commitments including Sime Darby, IOI, PepsiCo, Nestle, Unilever and others.

FOTO wants traders buying from the palm oil mills owned by the Tee family to immediately suspend purchases and demand the latter to stop clearing on their BOPPL plantation in PNG.

“The palm oil industry is undergoing a shift since the last few years as more and more companies adopt sustainability policies and remove deforestation from their supply chains. That many of these companies are still buying palm oil from mills owned by individuals active in forest clearing undermines these sustainability policies and attempts to combat deforestation in the industry”, concludes Upreshpal.

-end-

References:

[1] http://www.coi.gov.pg/documents/COI%20SABL/Numapo%20SABL%20Final%20Report.pdf

[2] https://postcourier.com.pg/all-sabls-unlawful/

[3] http://www.looppng.com/png-news/cancelled-sabls-revealed-73107

[4] https://www.thenational.com.pg/bewani-oil-palm-project/

[5] https://postcourier.com.pg/20000-hectares-set-oil-palm-2019/

[6] https://chainreactionresearch.com/report/shadow-companies-present-palm-oil-investor-risks-and-undermine-ndpe-efforts/

 

Addendum:

Despite the uncertain legal status [of BOPPL’s lease as mentioned above], in June 2018 the National Planning & Monitoring Minister Richard Maru visited the plantation to review developments. He heard that the Bewani Oil Palm Plantation plans to plant 20,000 ha of palms by 2019, and the mill is currently undergoing tests before it is commissioned. Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill will officially commission the mill. One question that remains is how the Tee family are funding this venture.  With an investment cost of around RM30,000 per hectare for infrastructure and costs to maturity, the capital needed for a plantation of this size are significant.

The Bewani Oil Palm Plantation is owned by nine members of the Malaysian Tee family; Tee Kim Tee, Tee Cheng Hua, Tee Lip Jen, Tee Lip Chuan, Tee Chain Yee, Tee Lip Sin, Tee Lip Hian, Tee Ching Chan and Tee Cheng Hu. The project’s inauguration in October 2010 was attended by Tee Kim Tee, who publicly signed inauguration documents at the event.

The Tee family are also the majority shareholders of four palm oil mills (Tagar Properties, Rompin Palm Oil Mill, Prosper Palm Oil Mill and Endau Palm Oil Mill) and the minority shareholders of four other mills (KilangKosfarm, WujudWawasan, Kilang Sawira Makmurand Cheekah-Kemayan Plantations) in Peninsular Malaysia.These mills appear in the supply chains of companies with sustainable purchasing policy commitments, including Wilmar, IOI, Musim Mas, Bunge, Mewah, ADM, Sime Darby, AAK, Cargill, Colgate Palmolive, PepsiCo, Reckitt Benckiser, General Mills, Mondelez, P&G, Nestle, Olam, Mars and Unilever.

The Tee family’s shares in these eight mills are via several intermediary companies, commonly known as the Prosper Group of companies, and their mills typically appear in company supply lists as ‘Prosper Group’, or a variant of Prosper. The Prosper Group’s publicly listed plantation entity, Far East Holding Berhad, has two main shareholders: Prosper Trading Sdn Bhd and LKPP Corp (Pahang State’s Company for Agriculture Development).

Tee Kim Tee & Tee Cheng Hua are currently non-independent, non-executive directors of Far East Holdings Bhd, and minority shareholders. Tee Cheng Hua is also on the senior management team of Far East Holdings Bhd as Executive Director Plantations (as per the 2017 annual report). Family members Tee Lip Jen, Tee Kim Tee, Tee Cheng Hua, Tee Lip Chuan, Tee Chain Yee, Tee Lip Sin and Tee Lip Hian are also majority shareholders in Prosper Trading Sdn Bhd.

 

Response from Sentoria regarding chimps

posted in: News | 0

Below is the reply from Sentoria, the owner of Langkawi Nature Park and Bukit Gambang Safari Park, to FOTO’s director on 12 July. This are the explanations to reports and opinions on the chimps. The presss statement referred to below by Sentoria can be found at this link – https://www.facebook.com/LangkawiNaturePark/photos/a.1924629304456045/1967336520185323/?type=3

——————-

Thu 12-Jul-18 12:28 AM

Dear Mr. Upreshpal Singh,

We appreciate your concerns of the animal welfare and we assure no such misappropriate actions were done to our animals as the company has heavily invested to build zoos with proper licence obtained from the authority, obliging in conserving the wild life and adhering to any rules and regulations from the local authorities under the wildlife 2010 Act / Act 716.

The allegations on Sumomo, the 19-year old Chimpanzees being shot dead is not true. All relevant technical reports have been submitted to the investigation team from Jabatan Perhilitan Negeri Kedah. A press statement was also post in the social website to share the news transparently. The press statement is attached.

We recently had Perhilitan and MAZPA representatives visited and audited our Chimp’s enclosure & exhibit and we are glad all had met the requirements with minor additional or changes that has been addressed immediately. On the post-mortem report of the dead chimp sadly to say we cannot provide to public or any other parties as a full report was submitted to Perhilitan.

We hope the explanation will provide a peace of mind to you and parties concern on this matter.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Karen Tan

Communications Department

Sentoria Themeparks and Resorts Sdn. Bhd.

On Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 5:57 PM Upreshpal Singh <REDACTED> wrote:
Dear Dato Gan,

We hope to hear from the Sentoria management regarding our email on 2nd January, this week.

We have received news from Langkawi island that there are chimps at Sentoria’s new zoo, Langkawi Nature Park and we believe that these chimps were transferred from Bukit Gambang. However, there are only two chimps at LNP. May we know what has happened to the third chimp? If this chimp is dead, may receive its post mortem report and photos.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Upreshpal

Upreshpal Singh
Director
www.fotomalaysia.org

Sign the petition to help save Lasah the elephant

From: Upreshpal Singh [REDACTED] 
Sent: Tuesday, January 02, 2018 21:11
To: REDACTED
Cc: REDACTED
Subject: Bukit Gambang Safari Park – chimpanzees

To: Dato Gan Kim Leong
Managing Director,
Sentoria Group Berhad,
56 & 58 Jalan Dagang SB 4/2,
Taman Sungai Besi Indah,
43300 Seri Kembangan, Selangor DE

Dear Dato Gan,

With reference to the treatment of three chimpanzees at the Bukit Gambang Safari Park, we are forwarding a letter on behalf of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance [PASA] as per attached in this email. Will the management of Sentoria GB inform us if it will agree to rehoming the chimps to Africa? Our organisation joins the call by PASA to rehome the chimps to Africa.

Besides, may we also know the current status of the three chimps?

Looking forward to hearing from the management. Thank you.

Sincerely,
Upreshpal

Upreshpal Singh
Director
www.fotomalaysia.org

Sign the petition to help save Lasah the elephant

—————————

Below  are all the emails sent to Sentoria before they replied on 12 July 2018.

Thu 24-May-18 12:53 AM

Dear Dato Gan,

Since my last email on January 20 [as per below] we have not received a reply from the management to our requests regarding the treatment of the chimps, now at Langkawi Nature Park [LNP]. We hope the Sentoria management will furnish us with the details we have requested previously.

In February our organisation contacted several staff members of Sentoria with regards to the alleged shooting of Sumomo the chimp at LNP. The staff contacted refused to comment on Sumomo’s fate and informed us to contact Dr. Adznan, though to our disappointment he never answered/returned our calls and text. Several days after our attempts on getting clarification on Sumomo, LNP finally admitted on its Facebook page that Sumomo has indeed died; albeit from kidney issues. With reference to our request on January 9, can the management please provide photos of Sumomo’s corpse and post mortem report[s]?

We are also awaiting evidence [photographic and data sheets] that while the chimps were at Bukit Gambang Safari Park they were given [daily] access to an enclosure.

We’re looking forward to hearing from your management.

Thank you.

Best regards,
Upreshpal
Upreshpal Singh
Director
www.fotomalaysia.org

Sign the petition to help save Lasah the elephant

From: Upreshpal Singh [REDACTED] 
Sent: Saturday, January 20, 2018 04:33
To: REDACTED
Cc: REDACTED
Subject: RE: Bukit Gambang Safari Park – chimpanzees

Dear Dato Gan,

Further to our previous emails, may we know please if the three chimpanzees who were at Bukit Gambang Safari Park were never released into an enclosure while at the zoo, as mentioned in this article in December? If they were may we please receive evidence including photos of the chimps in the enclosure and data sheets? We would also appreciate other information including the diet data sheets of the chimps at Bukit Gambang.

Thank you for your kind cooperation.
Kind regards,
Upreshpal
Upreshpal Singh
Director
www.fotomalaysia.org

Sign the petition to help save Lasah the elephant

From: Upreshpal Singh [REDACTED] 
Sent: Tuesday, January 09, 2018 17:57
To: REDACTED
Cc: REDACTED
Subject: RE: Bukit Gambang Safari Park – chimpanzees

Dear Dato Gan,

We hope to hear from the Sentoria management regarding our email on 2nd January, this week.

We have received news from Langkawi island that there are chimps at Sentoria’s new zoo, Langkawi Nature Park and we believe that these chimps were transferred from Bukit Gambang. However, there are only two chimps at LNP. May we know what has happened to the third chimp? If this chimp is dead, may receive its post mortem report and photos.

Thank you.
Sincerely,
Upreshpal
Upreshpal Singh
Director
www.fotomalaysia.org

Sign the petition to help save Lasah the elephant

From: Upreshpal Singh [REDACTED] 
Sent: Tuesday, January 02, 2018 21:11
To: REDACTED
Cc: REDACTED
Subject: Bukit Gambang Safari Park – chimpanzees

To: Dato Gan Kim Leong
Managing Director,
Sentoria Group Berhad,
56 & 58 Jalan Dagang SB 4/2,
Taman Sungai Besi Indah,
43300 Seri Kembangan, Selangor DE

Dear Dato Gan,

With reference to the treatment of three chimpanzees at the Bukit Gambang Safari Park, we are forwarding a letter on behalf of the REDACTED as per attached in this email. Will the management of Sentoria GB inform us if it will agree to rehoming the chimps to Africa? Our organisation joins the call by REDACTED to rehome the chimps to Africa.

Besides, may we also know the current status of the three chimps?

Looking forward to hearing from the management. Thank you.
Sincerely,
Upreshpal
Upreshpal Singh
Director
www.fotomalaysia.org

Sign the petition to help save Lasah the elephant