Perhilitan says Lasah is ‘doing Fine.’ Make of That what you Will
Ask animal lovers, and Lasah, a 37-year-old elephant, has endured so much abuse and neglect for years that he needs to be freed from the Langkawi Elephant Adventures Park. The pachyderm has been kept in chains most of the time and used in elephant rides in the rest.
Ask management at the park, however, and they’ll insist that Lasah is doing just fine, no need to worry.
So what do officials say?
The animal rights group Friends of the Orangutans, which first brought widespread attention to Lasah’s plight in Langkawi last year, has repeatedly called on wildlife officials to step in and help free the long-suffering elephant from Langkawi. Finally, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry has responded. But not in the way that Lasah’s legions of supporters in Malaysia and abroad would have liked.
According to the ministry, Lasah is doing well at Langkawi. The ministry says that Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) officials have conducted several inspections at the animal adventures park and found Lasah to be “in good shape and healthy.” “The condition of the premises is in compliance with the regulations such as having sufficient space and shelter, and so on,” the ministry was quoted as saying by The Star.
Government officials say they have appointed a veterinary surgeon to conduct regular health checks on Lasah. “The elephant suffered from a wound and was treated by veterinarians who had to implement temporary drastic measures to prevent the elephant from lying down on the floor so that the wound can heal,” the ministry said. “Lasah’s wounds have recovered and the elephant’s four legs are no longer tied up. Only two of Lasah’s legs are tied as per normal practice.”
These findings are in sharp contrast with FOTO’s own investigation. “After years of abuse and exploitation Lasah was sent to Langkawi in March 2006 and has since been forced to give rides for hours in sweltering heat and humidity while at the mercy of his handler,” the animal rights group explained last year. “Recently [our] investigators found Lasah kept in brutal conditions behind public eyes, chained on all four legs.”
It’s of course more than plausible that in response to all the publicity about Lasah’s plight over the past months, staffers at Langkawi have improved Lasah’s conditions. We can also give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they have always treated Lasah reasonably well, just as they insist they have.
According to the ministry, a third-party assessment by the Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria Malaysia confirmed its own findings by finding that Lasah is “in good condition and that elephant rides provide an opportunity for exercise.”
That’s a curious statement, to say the least. Elephant rides are not proper “exercise” for elephants but a highly exploitative activity poses severe health risks to them. The rides can cause undue stress to the animals, exhaust them and damage their spines. In some cases, elephants used in such rides are known to have suffered severe injuries and even died.
“Elephants are not amusement park rides,” explains the Humane Society in the US. “In the interests of public health and safety as well as animal welfare, please don’t ride the elephants,” the nonprofit urges people worldwide.
Nonetheless, the Langkawi Elephant Adventures Park continues to stress that it has “the long-term interest of the elephant” at heart. Lasah’s owner, park owner Jason Loh, said that FOTO’s images showing Lasah all chained up at night alone with visible wounds to his face were taken at an inopportune moment.
To treat Lasah’s face wounds that he had suffered before he was brought to the park in 2006, Loh said, the park had to apply “a more radical approach than we have ever attempted” in December 2015, shortly before FOTO discovered the elephant’s plight. “While regrettable that the procedure may have seemed extreme, it ultimately produced significantly positive results,” Loh stressed.
Be that as it may, the fact remains that elephants like Lasah do not belong in “animal adventure parks” for the benefit of visitors. Lasah was born wild before he was caught and chain-ganged into a variety of exploitative activities from logging to elephant rides. If he was human, you would call him a slave. And in this day and age slavery is entirely unacceptable.