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Malaysia adopts ‘Orangutan diplomacy’ for palm oil sales amid allegation of deforestation

By Our Correspondent

Following the European Union (EU) approval on import ban on commodities linked to deforestation in 2023, the Malaysians government has planned to give Orangutan to countries that buy palm oil from the country.

Malaysia, the South-Asian country is the world’s second biggest producer of palm oil. The country’s Plantations and Commodities Minister, Johari Abdul-Ghani, has said on social media that his country could not take a defensive approach to the issue of palm oil and deforestation but to show the world that Malaysia is a sustainable oil palm producer and is committed to protecting forests and environmental sustainablity.

The country is facing severe pressure from the European Union, which last year approved an import ban on commodities linked to deforestation. However, Malaysian Government criticised the law as discriminatory.

Abdul-Ghani made the statement on social media following the European Union’s tough stand against Malaysian authorities angaging in deforestation owing to global demand for oil palm from the country.

According to the minister, he said, ”giving Orangutans to trading partners such as the European Union, China and India would ”prove to the global community that Malaysia is committed to biodiversity conservation, linkening the Orangutan diplomacy to China’s Panda diplomacy.
In the mean time, an environment group, Justice for Wildlife Malaysia, in its reaction to the Oranguran’s diplomacy said: ”While we understand that Orangutan’s iplomacy is one of the many options to address this issue, it is also crucial to explore alternative diplomatic measures to improve relations with the EU and the country.

”Protecting the forest, which is the natural habitat of Orangutans, is the most important steps that need to be taken. The funds that would have been spent on orangutan diplomacy should be directed towards conservation efforts for these primates and the preservation of their forest home,” said the non-profit research group.

The Malaysian Primatological Society’s scientific adviser, Dr. Felicity Oram, welcomed the government’s commitment to supporting coexistence with Malaysian wildlife.

However, Oram said: ”While the ‘panda diplomacy’ model has successfully promoted and funded the conservation of one iconic species, Malaysia has the potential to work cooperatively in our own way to facilitate wildlife conservation through habitat preservation, rehabilitation, and coexistence with wildlife where they still survive in the wild.”

It will be recall that in the past, China used panda diplomacy as a form of soft power, and typically loans the animals to foreign zoos at a cost of $1m a year for a pair, with this moneyspent on conservation. The pandas and their offsprings are later returned to China to continue breeding.

According to WWF, the Conservation group, it is estimated that 100 years ago, there were probably more than 230,000 Orangutan’s population in total in that part of the world. Today, the Bornean orangutan’s population is thought to be 104,700, while the Sumatran orangutan, found in the north of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is thought to have a population of about 7,500.

Wildlife organisations have called on the Malaysian government to consider other ways to signal its commitment to protecting the species rather than giving them out to countries that buy palm oil.


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