PETALING JAYA: The viral photo of an elephant chained on all fours at Langkawi Elephant Adventures (LEA) on Langkawi island is in "good shape and healthy", said the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.
Photos of a chained Asian elephant named Lasah have been circulated widely since July 2016, with claims from non-governmental organisation Friends of the Orangutans saying that Lasah was living in "deplorable conditions" and was being exploited at LEA.
The Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that Perhilitan has conducted several inspections on LEA after receiving complaints about the elephant, adding that LEA has also been investigated several times.
It added in its statement that LEA was visited by Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar along with the Ministry's deputy secretary-general Datuk Seri Dr Azimuddin Bahari and Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) director general Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim on Tuesday, saying that the visit was to inspect the premises and the elephant.
The Ministry said it concluded that all investigations and inspections "found the elephant 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," said the ministry in a statement.
It added that interactive activities with the elephant were carried out in accordance with Perhilitan guidelines that limit such activities to a three hour period daily.
The ministry also said that a veterinary surgeon has also been appointed to inspect Lasah's health regularly.
"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," said the ministry.
It added that this was carried out in the evening for three to four days a week over a period of several months in 2016.
"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," said the ministry.
It added that a third party assessment was done by the Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria Malaysia (Mazpa) which reported that the elephant is in good condition and that elephant rides provide an opportunity for exercise.
LEA owner Jason Loh said that they were treating Lasah's "pre-existing medical condition".
"In December 2015, LEA applied a more radical approach than we have ever attempted," said Loh.
"While regrettable that the procedure may have seemed extreme, it ultimately produced significantly positive results.
"It was a decision made under extenuating circumstances in the long-term interest of the elephant," he said.
Loh said that it was "unfortunate" that photographs taken during the treatment have been construed into something other than the treatment of a medical condition.
Commenting on the various petitions calling for Lasah's relocation to Kuala Gandah elephant sanctuary, the Ministry said that they will also hold discussions on the matter.
NRE and Perhilitan also urged all foreigners who signed the petition to get the valid information to file a complaint using existing channels so that Perhilitan can investigate the claims.
To file a complaint relating to misconduct and wildlife crime, the public can file a report through www.wildlife.gov.my or call the Wildlife Hotline at 1-800-88-5151 from Monday to Friday at 8am to 6pm.
As of press time, calls and messages to Friends of the Orangutans have been unanswered.