Lasah to remain at LEA for better care

LANGKAWI: Lasah, a 37-year-old elephant which shot to fame after being featured in the Anna and the King movie, can expect better care with the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry allowing the pachyderm to remain with the Langkawi Elephant Adventures (LEA).

LEA director, Jason Loh, who welcomed the decision, said that it would allow the facility to continue to improve Lasah's well-being.

"In fact, we have complied to all the (international) guidelines and regulations governing the management and involvement of animals in interactive programmes even before the guidelines were established (and enforced in Malaysia)," he told Bernama here.

He said this in response to a statement by the ministry recently which announced the evaluation committee's recommendation for the elephant to remain under LEA's care.

The committee, which was headed by the ministry's deputy secretary-general, Datuk Dr Azimuddin Bahari, was formed following a working visit by the minister, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi, to LEA site at the Oriental Village here last March.

A statement issued by the ministry stated that based on checks by the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) and the Malaysian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (Mazpa), the elephant was found to be in healthy condition.

"The LEA management had complied to all the regulations set by Perhilitan and this report had been supported by a consultant for wildlife management," it said.

LEA was also required to continue providing latest health report prepared by an appointed veterinarian and to comply to all standards that had been determined at national or international levels on the well-being of wildlife under captivity.

Operating at the Oriental Village here, LEA had been criticised by a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Friends of the Orang Utan (Foto), since 2015, for allegedly abusing the elephant by chaining it and depriving it from sleeping.

The NGO continued to play up the issue by circulating unverified photograph of the mammal being chained on the Internet and started an online petition demanding for it to be relocated at the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary in Pahang.

Foto continued its campaign for the elephant to be relocated even though explanations had been given by LEA on the radical method of healing treatment employed on Lasah and was recommended by a certified veterinarian.

"I wouldn't know what is the agenda behind them continuing on with their campaign but they have not being fair to us," he said.

The continued campaign led to Wan Junaidi's visit to Langkawi last March where he said that he had to be fair to everyone by coming in personally, and accompanied by relevant experts, to check on the elephant .

"As the minister in charge, I need to hear from all parties and to see by myself the real situation. Whatever decision made would be for the best of the elephant," he told reporters during the visit. — Bernama