Malaysia wants to try “orangutan diplomacy”

Malaysia plans to offer orangutans to palm oil-buying countries, launching an initiative reminiscent of China’s “panda diplomacy”, a minister said on Wednesday.

According to Minister of Raw Materials Johari Abdul Ghani, the “orangutan diplomacy” strategy will involve offering these endangered great apes to nations trading in palm oil, particularly major importers like the European Union and India.

Malaysia will thus show that “it is still committed to preserving biodiversity”, he said, on X.

According to the WWF, orangutans are critically endangered, threatened primarily by habitat loss “due to logging, agricultural expansion, particularly palm oil plantations, and infrastructure development.

Johari Abdul Ghani urged palm oil companies to collaborate with NGOs to contribute to the preservation of Malaysia’s wildlife and provide technical expertise on the matter. Palm oil is used in food (cakes, chocolate, margarine, etc.) and in cosmetics, soap and shampoo.

For China, panda diplomacy is a form of “soft power”, a strategy of influence in international relations. It enters into loan agreements for its pandas with foreign zoos which, in the event of birth, generally have to return the small ursids a few years later so that they join the country’s breeding program.

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