Seoul zoo reveals orangutan project

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Seoul zoo reveals orangutan project

A Korean zoo said Tuesday it will closely work with the Bukit Merah Orang Utan Island Foundation, a Malaysian body dedicated to the care of the orangutan, to preserve the animal species.

As part of the effort, the zoo at Seoul Grand Park in Gwacheon, just south of Seoul in Gyeonggi, will hold an international cooperation seminar today to discuss ways to protect the orangutan, a critically endangered species.

Malaysian officials responsible for the preservation of wildlife and Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal, the foundation’s founder, will take part in the seminar.

During the seminar, representatives from the two countries are expected to discuss the planned transfer of a mother orangutan and her baby with disabilities to the foundation in Bukit Merah, a village some 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur.

The seminar comes after the Korean zoo formed a business pact with the foundation in November to relocate Baekseok, a male orangutan born in 2009 with his hind legs paralyzed, and his mother Osun, born in 1968, to the Malaysian center in March or April.

Baekseok has difficulty walking due to a congenital distortion of his hip bones, and Osun is advanced in age, well past the average lifespan of the animal, 30 to 40 years.

Established in 2000, the orangutan foundation has clinics and rehabilitation facilities dedicated to orangutans on an island of 350,000 square meters (3,767,368 square feet) and 16 orangutans in captivity.

Officials at the Korean zoo hope that Baekseok and Osun will receive better and more specialized care if relocated to the Southeast Asian country.

Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the zoo is required to obtain export and import permits for the animal.

On Jan. 20, the Malaysian government allowed the mother and baby orangutans to be imported, while the Korean zoo is waiting for the government to issue a permit to export them to Malaysia.

The Korean zoo will further discuss ways to promote animal exchanges and cooperate in medical services for animals with the Malaysian foundation and take part in international programs to preserve the orangutan.

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