Hard Rock Cafe on Tuesday withdrew a promotional campaign in Malaysia after public anger at the photoshopped depiction of an orangutan baring its teeth and playing an electric guitar.
The campaign was meant to promote the U.S. chain’s latest restaurant which was launched April 1 in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah state on Borneo, a rain-forested island refuge for the endangered orangutan.
It drew sharp criticism on social media and from the Sabah government and wildlife groups.
The large ginger primate is a treasured mascot of Sabah, on the northern tip of Borneo. The state is home to a large orangutan rehabilitation center that rescues orphaned baby orangutans and trains them to survive in the wild.
Sabah Wildlife Department director William Baya said the advertisement was a “distasteful exploitation” of the orangutan and gave the wrong impression about how Sabah treats its beloved icon.
In a brief statement, Hard Rock Cafe Kota Kinabalu said it “sincerely apologize to those who have been offended by recent advertisements.”
It said all the promotional banners have been removed and that it was working with local authorities to ensure all future advertisements are “culturally sensitive.”
Officials said the advertisement was created with Photoshop, using an image of a real orangutan.
Orangutans are native to rainforests in Borneo and Indonesia’s Sumatra island.
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