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The plight of the elephants on parade

Disturbing visuals have emerged that point toward the alleged mistreatment and abuse of elephants that has been taking place for years at a zoo in Malacca.

A recent tip-off by an NGO called Friends of the Orangutans(FOTO) led to an investigation by Astro AWANI of the conditions of the elephants living within the care of A’Famosa Resort in Alor Gajah.

In Focus, Tuesday, 8:30pm

The results of this ‘In Focus’ probe revealed, among others:

  • That when not ‘working’, show elephants were being kept at a ‘night stall’, away from public eye.
  • Animals being chained there, some on both feet, for an unknown length of time
  • At least one elephant looked exceptionally gaunt and unhealthy
  • Dirty quarters including unwashed faeces on the cement floors
  • No readily available food or water

These conditions seem to go against some of the international standards of elephant management and care.

The Association of Zoo and Aquarium (AZA) standards says that elephants should not be subjected to
unnecessary prolonged restraint. It also says that water, mud, dust, soil or sand must be available for elephants to dust themselves to assist with thermoregulation. The captivity area used cement floor, which could lead to injuries and infections of the feet.

The AZA standards also says elephants also should be provided sufficient sheltered areas to prevent overheating or discomfort.

The quarters observed at the resort are estimated to be approximately 450 sq metres (there were five during the time of visit) but the AZA standards recommend 500 sq m per elephant.

A series of photographs dating back to 2011 indicated that the apparently poor living conditions of these elephants had not changed much for years.

These images were the basis for the investigation by FOTO and subsequently the visit by Astro AWANI.


Another shocking revelation was witnessed and captured on video camera: the beating of an elephant at the holiday destination.

Astro AWANI witnessed a man, presumably a staff of A’Famosa, beating a female elephant repeatedly with a hooked, stick-like tool while the creature cried out. The sounds of the impact of the beating were loud enough to be heard from a distance.

FOTO’s director Upreshpal Singh said that the “horrific” and “atrocious” treatment of the reported nine elephants at the resort was nothing short of “abuse”.

Upreshpal added: “These are the elephants to make profit for A’Famosa, they are used for elephant shows, they are used in elephant rides… and when they are not used, when they are not working, that’s how they are chained, behind public eye.

“The beating we witnessed was so vicious and loud… that is absolutely cruel and unacceptable,” he said.

Upreshpal also urged the authorities, namely the Department of Wildlife and National Parks(Perhilitan) to take action, pointing to Section 86 of the Wildlife Protection Act 2010 which covers offences of animal cruelty. He asked for the maximum penalty.

Upreshpal said that FOTO estimated that the elephants are chained up to 15 hours a day.

“A’famosa, must must must be prosecuted, they cannot escape anymore. They got away scotfree with the tiger photography a few years ago, and they were caught red handed keeping orangutans in cages for a long time.”

He also called for an independent veterinarian to visit the elephants, and for the animals to be freed from chains and be provided constant food and water and better habitat.

“We also have to wonder, did perhilitan not know about it, if no.. why not? Did they not know that’s how those elephants are being chained all these years? And if they do know what’s happening, and my guess is, they do know what’s happening, then why did they not take action?

At this time, a full response is yet to be provided by A’Famosa to these allegations. However, unofficially, one senior staff claimed that these complaints are new and that beatings are not practiced at the resort.

However, earlier today, Robert Na from A’Famosa commented. He said:”We refer to your e-mail dated 7 August 2013 regarding the condition of the elephants at A’Famosa and regret that the accusations that were brought to your attention were factually incorrect and was probably sent by some special interest groups.”

“I would like to clarify that the elephants are kept and maintain(sic) at international accepted standards and conditions and beating of the elephants is strictly forbidden by the management. In addition, relevant authorities periodically visit to ensure the well being of our animals.”

When contacted, Perhilitan deputy director-general Dr Zaaba Zainol Abidin said that the department was unaware of these serious claims but asked for an investigation to be carried out.

Zaaba’s statement contradicted that of another officer who shared that he was aware of the poor conditions but had simply notified enforcement with no further follow up.

Following Zaaba’s orders, the Melaka perhilitan director Mohammad Khairi Ahmad later told Astro AWANI that the last audit in April showed that A’Famosa practices were satisfactory.

After a visit to the resort following our queries, Khairi said:“We are of the view that there were no mistreatment and therefore deny any allegations to that effect. The conditions (of the elephants) are all okay, the place (where they are kept) is clean and there is no contravention of our Act”

In the full In Focus report, Astro AWANI also spoke to several experts and NGOs on this case, including consultant wildlife and zoo veterinarian Associate Professor Dr S Vellayan, former Perhilitan director-general Mohd Khan Momin Khan, and Malaysian Nature Society head of conservation Balu Perumal.

To watch more of the episode “the plight of the elephants on parade”, tune in to ‘In Focus’ tonight(Tuesday, Aug 20) 8.30pm, exclusively on Astro AWANI.


NOTE:  Link to the online article has been removed from the Astro Awani website, which is the original source of the above article.