I refer to letters from Lesley B. Lahm headlined 'Beautiful orangutans look miserable in barren cage' and Sandra Buhler headlined 'Noble creatures now quasi-senile hulks' (South China Morning Post, April 13 and 19, respectively).
Orangutans are highly endangered animals. The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens is endeavouring to conserve them and initiated a breeding programme 25 years ago. So far, we have successfully bred seven young orangutans.
They are naturally very languid animals. Our orangutans may appear to be bored, but certainly are not miserable or depressed.
Of the eight orangutans we are keeping only one habitually bangs her head, a habit she learned prior to her arrival from overseas in 1981. Otherwise, she lives harmoniously with the other orangutans in the enclosures and has proved to be a very good mother.
Our orangutans are kept on clean concrete flooring to prevent them from contacting parasites and pathogenic germs.
Nevertheless, the enclosures are equipped with strong metal climbing frames, high-rise platforms and climbing ropes for these arboreal animals where they can brachiate (swing) naturally. Also, barrels, burlap bags, cardboard boxes, heavy-duty life buoys and palm and banana leaves, are provided in the enclosures to stimulate them mentally.
We appreciate your correspondents' concerns for the orangutans. We shall continue to ensure they are well looked after and that the best means for their conservation and captive breeding are achieved.
LAWRENCE Y. K. CHEUNG
for Director of Leisure
and Cultural Services