Sunday, June 16

State’s orangutan to help boost KL’s eco-tourism

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KUCHING: An orangutan sanctuary, just like the ones in Semenggoh Wildlife Centre here and the Sepilok Sanctuary in Sandakan, Sabah, will be created in Kuala Lumpur as the latest eco-tourism attraction in the peninsula.With this, several orangutan primates are expected to be flown over to Kuala Lumpur from the two East Malaysian states once their new ‘home’ is identified.

The new Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit said this needed to be done because it is a directive given to him by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

“After my swearing in ceremony on Jan 13 in Kuala Lumpur, the prime minister asked me, ‘Can we fly one or two orangutan to KL?’. I said, ‘yes, we can’. But we need to find a suitable location, preferably an old tropical jungle or forest.

“This is a huge responsibility. I will use all the knowledge I have, as well as the experience I amassed all these years, in order to make this a reality,” he said in his first press conference last Saturday night.

Dawos, an environmental expert and a scientist by training, said he had already discussed the matter with the director general of Forestry Department, Datuk Razani Ujang, to find a suitable forest near Kuala Lumpur to relocate the orangutan. The next step to be taken, he said, would be to set up meetings between him and directors of both Sarawak and Sabah Forest Depart­ments, and also hold dialogues with experts from both states.

He said input by the experts are needed so that the orangutan sanctuary in Kuala Lumpur can be a big success and leave a lasting impression on visitors in line with the government’s intention to make eco-tourism a more prominent sector.

“I cannot ascertain when we can make this (the orangutan sanctuary in Kuala Lumpur) a reality. But this is a directive from the prime minister, which is why we must do it.

“And I hope I can get the support needed from the Sarawak and Sabah experts,” he said.

On a related matter, Dawos said he is now in the process of outlining the ‘Strategic Plan for Eco-Tourism 2010–2020’.

He said among the strategies to be included are promoting Malaysia’s Green Tourism and the setting up of inter-ministerial committee.

He said the federal govern­ment also wants to attract more ‘silver-haired’ tourists (middle aged people) to the country.

“We will not leave out the ‘backpackers’ although they do not spend much money when they come travelling here.

“But we want to try to attract more ‘silver-haired’ tourists, who have a lot of money and will spend when they go on travels.  These same people are also very interested in eco-tourism,” he said.

Dawos, who is Mambong Member of Parliament, earlier officiated at the closing of the month-long ‘Fabulous Food 1Malaysia Street and Hawker Food (FF1M)’ programme at MJC Batu Kawa New Township.

Also present at the function were Ministry of Tourism secretary general Datuk Ong Hong Peng and officers from the ministry.