Experts: Most Malaysians know the panda, not orang utan

WINNIE YEOH The Star 25 Nov 14;

Most Malaysians, apparently, know more about the panda than the country’s very own orang utan, USM School of Biological Sciences Ecology, Aquatic Botany and Weed Science lecturer Prof Dr Mashhor Mansor said.

“Many people go gaga over the pandas, which are on loan to Malaysia from China,” he said. “But there’s not much hype about the primate. Many people still think that the orang utan is a monkey.”

The lack of knowledge persisted despite the wide usage of the orang utan images, he told reporters at the First International Primate/Orang Utan Dialogue – Survival of Orangutan at Sains@USM in Bukit Jambul yesterday.

Dr Mashhor said more information on the orang utan, such as their habitat and conservation efforts, should be included in the school curriculum.

“The Government should set aside more money for conservation and biodiversity studies,” he suggested.

He also pointed out that the orang utan’s favourite fruits were from the ficus trees, pokok kulim or jungle garlic.

“They also love wild durian, rambutan, mangosteen and mango.”

International Primatological Society president Prof Dr Tetsuro Matsuzawa said orang utan was a critically endangered species under Appendix 1 of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

He said human beings, chimpanzee, orang utan and gorilla belonged to the hominid (hominidae) family.

The chimpanzee, orang utan and gorilla were facing threats such as habitat loss, poaching and diseases, he said.

“Cutting of trees and deforestation for agriculture and timber is badly affecting their habitat.”

Matsuzawa, who is also Kyoto University Primate Research Institute professor, said Malaysia should be proud to be one of the only two host countries for the orang utan. The other is Indonesia.

He said Malaysia should also take a leading role in studying about the orang utan as well as launch its own primatological society.

“The orang utan is the less researched primate compared to chimpanzee and gorilla.”