April 9, 2016

Last two Orangutans are Released from Rasa Ria Resort in Sabah

Last two Orangutans are Released from Rasa Ria Resort in Sabah

Two baby orangutans huddle for comfort. Photo Credit: Animalia Life

And then there were none – orangutans left at Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa, that is.

In a move celebrated by Malaysian conservationists as an important victory, the last two orangutans held at the luxury resort in Kota Kinabalu have now been sent to the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok. Thus has now ended what many local animal rights activists have deemed two decades of exploitation by the hotel of orphaned orangutans under the pretense of “conservationism.”

“Friends of the Orangutans Malaysia would like to convey our huge thanks to you, all supporters and organisations who have made this victory possible. Without your concern and support the exploitation would still be happening,” said Upreshpal Singh, director of Friends of the Orangutans (Foto), an animal rights group that has been campaigning for years against the high-end resort over its treatment of captive animals. “Our Shangri-La campaign officials ends today,” he added in a statement sent to Clean Malaysia.

Two orphaned orangutan babies are used as tourist draws at Rasa Ria Resort. Photo Credit: Foto

Two orphaned orangutan babies are used as tourist draws at Rasa Ria Resort. Photo Credit: Foto

Over the years the luxury hotel came in for plenty of criticism from conservationists for using orphaned orangutans as tourist draws on its premises. Several orangutans, of the more than 40 held at the resort at one time or another, reportedly died as a result of neglect and inadequate care. Among them were an orangutan called Tenten, who died in 2014, and three orangutans (Mambo, Terry and Marrie) who were stabbed to death in 2003 by an employee of the resort.

The resort touted its treatment of captive apes as part of its Orangutan Care “rehabilitation” project in Sabah, but its critics insisted the program was nothing of the sort: instead, the hotel simply profited from the presence of orphaned orangutans. A former general manager of the resort, Jean-Marc Michel, admitted as much in a promotional video by explaining that “Bringing here the orangutans has been one of the most successful ideas that has made the resort so attracted (to tourists).”

At the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok, resident orangutans enjoy relative freedom of movement on the government-run institution’s 43 square kilometers of protected forest at the at the edge of Kabili Sepilok Forest Reserve. The two animals from Rasa Ria Resort can now join them.

4 Comments so far

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  1. Gillian Swaile

    Why say three orangutans were “reportedly” killed at Rasa Ria in 2003? They were killed, fact. They were stabbed to death along with 2 other infants which survived the attacks. I saw their graves in 2006. I visited there in 2000 and was horrified at the treatment of the rescued orangutans and could not believe that it was touted as a first step in “rehabilitation” before progressing on to sepilok. In 2006 things were marginally improved (probably because of the attack in 2003) but I was still left troubled by the whole set up. Could not be happier that orangutans have been removed from the Rasa Ria, but not sure Sepilok is heading in the right direction either.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Gillian. It is good news indeed that the last two remaining orangutans were finally released from Rasa Ria. They are hopefully better cared for in Sepilok, although conditions there are far from being perfect, too. In fact, a leading Malaysian animal rights activist has recently called for a boycott of the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre as we reported here.

      Clean Malaysia team

      1. S king

        My understanding was that a neighbouring hotel jealous of the success killed the infants . I don’t see any expert comment about the orangutan’s treatment and understand that Sepilok is not much more than a tourist attraction either. We have to be careful making conclusions also seeing the plight of an animal could have been used by Rasa Ria for their conservation but no donations were encouraged to charities suggesting they were indeed in it for themselves

  2. ulli zabe

    I visited Rasa Ria in 2008 and in 2012. I am in animal protection and can say that the rangers at Rasa Ria at the time were very good with the Orang Utans and the Orangs were treated very well. In fact I met the same ranger there twice and the guy loved the orangs. They were in their natural habitat and free. The number of tourists visiting was restricted. Actually I had a bad feeling about Sepilok. The people there did not seem to look after them, the orangs were more lively at Rasa Ria. Bad decision to transfer them to Sepilok. I even remember TenTen and she was in a very bad state already when she arrived, very sad that she passed away, but I would never blame the rangers of Rasa Ria. Probably she was too traumatized due to bad experience before.

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