MELBOURNE, July 28 — The treatment of orang utans at the Melbourne Zoo has raised the ire of Malaysian Palm Oil Council chief executive Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron, who described it as deplorable and a disgrace.
He said was appalled at the way the animals were screaming for attention in the winter cold when he made a quick visit to the zoo to check out the anti-palm oil signs at the orang utan enclosure.
“They were shivering and making noises which I recognised as distress calls,” he was quoted by Bernama as saying.
“Orang utans are tropical animals and find it extremely hard to survive in biting cold temperatures. At the Melbourne Zoo, orang utans had just sack cloth to cover themselves in the cold. But the sack cloth was small and they were struggling to get it round their huge bodies.
“I felt very sorry for these poor animals. Unlike human beings, orang utans cannot complain and their distress screams appeared to be ignored by the zoo,” he was quoted as saying.
Yusof is in Australia accompanying Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok who is on an eight-day working mission.
Yusof said Australian animal welfare authorities should investigate “the pathetic conditions” for orang utans at the zoo as well as other zoos in Australia.
“It is utter cruelty to the orang utans. The zoo must understand these are animals from the tropics and adequate protection should be given to them during winter. Their enclosures must be warm and made comfortable,” he was quoted as saying.
Yusof was reported as saying that he suspects having the orang utans in such degrading captivity was to win public support in Australia in the campaign against the use of palm oil products.
He said having anti-palm oil signs at the zoo was to win public sympathy and to misrepresent the orang utan issue.
“Australians must visit our orang utan sanctuaries in Malaysia and see how well the animals are taken care of. There is something sinister behind the campaign by western NGOs to ruin the palm oil industry,” he said.