KL removes billboard advert featuring wombat after netizens mistake it for a pig, causing uproar

The wombat mascot of Australia-based company Servcorp, which some Malaysians mistook for a pig.
The wombat mascot of Australia-based company Servcorp, which some Malaysians mistook for a pig.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Do you know what's a wombat? Some Malaysians apparently don't.

The Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) has had to temporarily remove a wombat advertisement from an electronic billboard at Bukit Bintang because people were mistaking it for a pig.

Mayor Ahmad Phesal Talib confirmed the removal of the digital advertisement at Jalan Bukit Bintang in the Malaysian capital, while DBKL was trying to get in touch with the company behind the advertisement to confirm the fact.

Mr Ahmad Phesal agreed that the animal in the advertisement was a wombat.

Wombats, incidentally, are marsupials, like kangaroos, wallabies and the koala bears.

"An irresponsible person perceived it as a pig and spread false rumours on the Internet which led to the public misconception," he said in an interview.

There was a public uproar on social media after a screenshot of the wombat went viral describing the advertisement as a "pig wearing a songkok and baju Melayu while accompanied by a Selamat Hari Raya greeting".

It has been established that the wombat is the mascot of Servcorp, an Australia-based company offering serviced offices in the region.

The cartoon wombat is normally depicted wearing a hat with a cream-coloured coat and brown pants in the advertisement, and even has a name: Sidney.

Sidney has been touted by Servcorp as the "world's wisest wombat", and it even has its own Facebook page as well as website.

Servcorp, which used the same mascot in the digital advertisement in a promotional video in 2012, on Monday apologised for the use of a wombat in the advertisement.

On their Facebook page, they extended their sincerest apologies for any confusion caused due to the use of a Wombat in a recent digital advertisement in Kuala Lumpur.

"Servcorp is an Australian company and uses the Wombat as its company mascot - the wombat itself is a small furry bear like animal that belongs to the Koala Bear family and is native to Australia.

"It would seem that some people mistook the wombat for a pig and during the holy month of Ramadan this might lead to some sensitivities," said Servcorp on Monday.

They stated that as an international business it is not their intention to offend any race nor religion and added that there were no prior issues globally with the use of their mascot, including their offices in the Middle East.

There were sympathetic responses to Servcorp's apology.

Facebook user Rachel Loke said: "Not everyone in Malaysia failed their science and biology lessons in school. Some of the intelligent ones among us can certainly differentiate between pig and wombat."

Some have also spoken out against those who reacted negatively to the ad over social media.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat Supreme Council member Latheefa Koya said on Facebook: "This is Servcorp's mascot, a wombat, not a PIG.

"So please don't embarrass Muslims by reacting like a crazy person just because you are paranoid that everything is an agenda by the Chinese and Jews… you are just portraying Muslims as stupid and sensitive with little respect for others."