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A political act ready to be aped

If the orangutans could ape us humans, they would seek a court order to restrain the advocates of 'development' from encroaching on their terrain

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When Zuraida Kamaruddin recently cast aspersions on orangutans, it would be understandable if the supposedly endangered species of the ape family felt more than slighted.

The plantation industries and commodities minister – in a viral video – is seen saying that if an orangutan sees a human, it would be the first to kill the human before the latter could do so. She said this at a seminar organised by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, as a response to claims that the palm oil industry threatens the existence of orangutans.

Such an assertion stirred a protest, particularly from animal lovers and environmentalists. Probably in hindsight and after receiving public backlash for the unsavoury characterisation of the ape family, ministry officials said Zuraida meant it as a joke.

Perhaps the public was too quick and underestimated her talent as a joker. Credit should be given where it is due.

That said, the orangutans themselves are already stressed out as they – and other wildlife – have been driven out of their natural habitat over the years, owing to activities that their fellow primates in stylish suits have indulged in, ie development.

If the orangutans could ape us humans, they would seek a court order to restrain the advocates of ‘development’ from encroaching on their terrain, if they had the wherewithal to do so.

This is because encroachment – in search of timber and minerals, and for animal poaching – can result in the unleashing of floods on nearby villagers and places where they get their food – despite Environment and Water Minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man’s studied assurance that our country will not be affected by climate change – never mind deforestation.

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Given such a dire prospect, the orangutans may be inclined to do what humans are bound to do: have law enforcers impose a lockdown in strategic locations to catch targeted homo sapiens, even if it mean the former could end up on a wild goose chase.

To be sure, someone’s goose would be cooked if the operation failed.

This is, of course, short of fumigating the entire forest with chemicals that would send humans running helter-skelter out of the woods – but polluting only the flora and fauna that certain state governments, whose main revenue derives from logging, will keenly consider protecting.

Perhaps Zuraida should not be harsh on or unduly suspicious of orangutans as the latter are not too dissimilar to humans.

Orangutans have a survival instinct, so they will swing from one tree branch to another or perch on high places when they sense danger to their life and their survival instinct kicks in – much like how humans will do anything and everything, such as habitually jumping from one party to another to cling to precious power.

In fact, orangutans, like humans, will be inclined to fight tooth and nail with members within the ape family if raw power is at stake – all done in the name of protecting the dignity and interest of the collective.

Like orangutans, some of us will wholeheartedly embrace the notion of the law of the jungle, where not only will the fittest survive, but certain leaders of the surviving pack will be able to enjoy the blind loyalty of their followers, no matter how serious their transgressions are in the past. In other words, a herd mentality thrives in such a context.

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There is an animal in some humans, whose characteristics may be enviable even to a devouring lion that is curiously not made available in this part of the world. – The Malaysian Insight

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The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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