By Azhari Mahmood [Letter to Editor\
The arrival of China's goodwill ambassadors Feng Yi (Phoenix) and Fu Wa (Lucky) on Malaysian soil recently created a "pandamonium" of the wondrous kind. It makes me wonder if our own orangutans which, like the pandas, are both iconic and endangered, can get the same treatment if accorded the status of a friendship ambassador for Malaysia?
As much as pandas are endemic to only China, so are the orangutans to Malaysia and Indonesia.
We could and should do more for our orangutans, like how China has done with their giant pandas, especially in treating the creatures as a national treasure.
We are certainly not short of animals that can be regarded as our national treasure by virtue of their status as endangered species, rarity and deteriorating population.
Apart from orangutans, we have the Malayan tigers, Malayan sun bears, proboscis monkeys, pygmy elephants and rhinoceroses.
Now, which of these unique animals to Malaysia fit the bill to be elevated as the country's icon?
The pandas are said to be cute, loveable and huggable.
Do our orangutans have such similar traits?
In Sabah and Sarawak, I am pleased to see our orangutans being used as a tourism "lure", where there are many conservation centres for visitors that also act as educational centre.
I remember the orangutans were once promoted like the country's icon, but this has stopped.
There were even orangutan dolls, similar to the toy koalas of Australia and stuffed pandas of China.
We ought to emulate and learn from the Chinese how best we can similarly treat our orangutans as our national treasure.
As a small country with limited land area, we must feel blessed that our forests are home to this species of primates.
We should be proud that even though we don't have pandas in our backyard, we do have the orangutans, the primates whose DNA is close to hum-ans.
It is about time that the tourism authorities focus on identifying our animal icons, and create our own friendship or goodwill ambassador similar to what China and some other countries have successfully done.
This way, we can share with the rest of the world our conservation efforts and research for the orangutans, apart from bringing nations closer together.