A Thought from YBhg.Tan Sri Datuk (Dr) Haji Mustapha Kamal bin Haji Abu Bakar
'Alhamdulillah, with the grace of Allah Subhanahuwataala, The Most Compassionate and The Most Merciful, with His Blessings, I would like to share my commitment and my enthusiasm in Orang Utan Island through my involvement in the Bukit Merah Orang Utan Island Foundation.
Orang Utan Island blossomed from an idea by one of Malaysia's greatest visionaries, YABhg Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, in developing a sanctuary for the orangutan.
Once becoming a reality in 1999 within the Bukit Merah Laketown Resort, Orang Utan Island was officially opened to the public in early 2000, and the initial orangutans came from the island of Borneo.
Visitors were able to view the orangutans from the boardwalk and the exhibition area, sparking strong interest and curiousity in these red-haired primates, whose genetic make-up is approximately 97% similar to that of humans.
In 2001, a new exhibition area was built on Orang Utan Island, comprising a 100-metre tunnel, enabling visitors to view the orangutans in their natural habitat from a much closer range.
Interestingly, we humans remain within the tunnel, which resembles a cage, while we view the orangutans roaming free beyond the cage.
On 18 October 2002, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Bukit Merah Orang Utan Island Foundation and the Sarawak Forestry Department pertaining to the rehabilitation, research and conservation of the orangutan whereby three orangutans, Mike, Carlos and Paulina, were loaned to be homed at Orang Utan Island.
Orphaned, confiscated and injured orangutans are rehabilitated to be returned to life in the wild.
At Orang Utan Island, we provide 24-hour care and the young are taught 'life skills' to survive in the wild.
This education process takes place in the enrichment development unit where they practise climbing and are exposed to the sights, the sounds and the smells they will eventually encounter in the wild.
Once they are considered strong, healthy and proficient in climbing and can forage for their own food, they will be moved to the introductory control release sites.
Orangutans need to be better protected.
Until they are, the mortality rate of these endangered species of orangutan will continue to rise and orphans will need to be rescued; so there remains the question: what do we do with these orphans or the injured?
They need to be taken into care, and, in my opinion, this is welfare.
Which is why, on 14 February 2008, the Bukit Merah Orang Utan Island Foundation was formed with the aim of supporting and assisting the Government via its agencies to carry out research, education, development, conservation and rehabilitation programmes, as well as to draw up protection policies for the orangutan.
The Foundation aims to work with and garner the support of individuals, corporations, private organisations, government agencies, societies, universities, schools, and non-government organisations.
The Foundation also serves as a comprehensive, national resource centre for information on the orangutan and links to collaborations with related information centres worldwide.
To date, there are a total number of 24 orangutans on Orang Utan Island and I am extremely proud of this facility's achievements in the rehabilitation and the care of the orangutans, especially the ones born on the island.
The survival rate has been phenomenal, warranting a label by professionals and activists in this area of study as the only ex-situ facility of its kind in the world.
I hope that with this effort, in a small way we have paved a route to allow future generations to continue to be awed by these amazing primates.'