Kota Kinabalu (The Star/ANN) - Thirty-five orang utans have been rehabilitated at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort's Nature Reserve conservation centre of Malaysia since its inception in 1995.
Sabah Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu said the rehabilitation programme was to complement efforts undertaken by the department's Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan.
"This is also to give an opportunity for the public and schoolchildren from the state's west coast to experience first-hand the rehabilitation process.
"The programme at the resort's nature reserve, however, is much smaller in scale compared to Sepilok," he said, adding that all 35 rehabilitated orang utans had been returned to Sepilok for release into the wild.
Laurentius was responding to an "open letter" on the reasons they were reluctant to respond to a local NGO Friends of the Orangutans Malaysia regarding the treatment of orphaned orang utans at the Rasa Ria Resort.
Laurentius said the department had always explained the rationale for the initiation of an orang utan rehabilitation centre at the resort in Tuaran, about 35 kilometres from here.
He claimed that Friends of the Orangutans Malaysia were invited to attend an orang utan conservation workshop and also for a site inspection of Rasa Ria in November last year but they declined.
There were representatives from other NGOs who came and were happy with the conservation efforts, he added.
"We have nothing to hide. These orang utans only spend their first two parts of the rehabilitation programme at the nature reserve of the resort before being sent back to Sepilok for the last part of their programme."
He said the Sepilok centre had strictly supervised the rehabilitation programme with a veterinarian on 24-hour call.
Medical checks were also done on all the orang utans in Rasa Ria, he added.