A Malaysian zoo is still holding an endangered orangutan allegedly abducted from Indonesia, but government officials said Thursday they were doing their best to satisfy protesters calling for the ape's return.
Wildlife activists have called for the primate to be returned to Indonesia's Sumatra island since December, when six other smuggled orangutans found in a Malaysian theme park were flown to a Sumatran centre, where they underwent rehabilitation before being freed into a jungle reserve.
Malaysian authorities are "in the process" of securing the release of the orangutan, which has lived in a state-run zoo in Johor state for several years, said Misliah Mohamed Basir, the Wildlife and National Parks Department's enforcement director.
"We have been trying our best to expedite this, and Indonesia understands the situation," Misliah said, declining to give a reason for the delay or to say when the apes might be returned. "There is no hidden agenda."
Johor Zoo manager Zakaria Razali said the orangutan - the zoo's only such animal - remained healthy and was on display. He did not say why the zoo has not surrendered the ape, saying it was a state government decision.
The orangutan and seven others found separately in a Malaysian private park were reportedly DNA-tested and discovered to be a Sumatran subspecies last year after conservation groups sounded concerns about where they had come from. The return of the other six apes to Indonesia's jungles had been hailed as a great stride toward regional cooperation to combat illegal wildlife trafficking.