Last updated: 03:00 PM ET, Wed April 22 2015

Hard Rock Cafe Kota Kinabalu Under Fire for Orangutan Ad

Impacting Travel | Donald Wood | April 22, 2015

Hard Rock Cafe Kota Kinabalu Under Fire for Orangutan Ad

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

The Hard Rock Cafe is one of the most iconic restaurant chains in the world, but the company has come under fire recently for an ad campaign utilizing an orangutan to support the opening of a branch in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

According to Eileen Ng of the Associated Press, government officials and wildlife groups in the state of Sabah who protect the orangutans criticized the portrayal of the primate playing a guitar with his mouth open.

The vast jungles that engulf the island and surround the new Hard Rock Cafe are the orangutan’s native territories, and the animal is held as a treasured part of the area. Sabah — the location where the restaurant was opened on April 1 — is also the home of  “a large orangutan rehabilitation center that rescues orphaned baby orangutans and trains them to survive in the wild.”

Sabah Wildlife Department director William Baya told the AP that the ad campaign was a “distasteful exploitation” of the area’s beloved animal. He and other officials also feared the possibility of visitors getting the wrong idea about how orangutans were treated in Sabah.

The official Twitter of Sky News shared a photograph of the advertisement many locals deemed inappropriate:

In response, Hard Rock Cafe Kota Kinabalu shared an apology via a statement, and claimed that it would be working closely with local officials to ensure that all of the company’s future advertisements will be sensitive to the differences in Sabah. All current advertisement featuring the orangutan has been removed.

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