Questioning Semenggoh’s orangutan adoption program

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Photo: Celebration of baby Mas’ first birthday at Semenggoh on 16 September 2017

In September 2017 the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, run by the Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) threw a birhtday party for a baby orangutan called Mas, celebrating his first birthday. Mas was born in Semenggoh on September 16 2016. SFC were also encouraging people to adopt Mas. According to the SFC websiteSemenggoh’s main attraction for visitors is its Wildlife Centre, where endangered species, once kept illegally as pets, are trained on how to fend for themselves before being released into the forest.”

This gives the impression that orangutans are being rehabilitated at Semenggoh but there is actually no rehabilitation taking place at Semenggoh. What is really happening is massive tourism and it surely does effect the orangutans. Baby Mas and her mother should be living in a forest far away from humans, which means not at the Semenggoh Nature Reserve forest.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) discourages tourism involving orangutans once familiar to humans as habituation is associated with physical risk and that of communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis. There is also evidence to suggest that unsustainable orangutan tourism (in other words, doesn’t abide by IUCN guidelines) contributes to a higher infant mortality rate.

Our estimation is that Semenggoh Nature Reserve is only about 460 hectares (we are open to be proven wrong) despite claims that it is bigger than that, and SFC claims there are 28 orangutans, including 13 females (roaming in the non-contiguous reserve). However, our estimation is that there are only about 10-15 orangutans in Semenggoh. There is also the problem of inbreeding considering the tiny patch of forest. In reality, experts say that a female orangutan uses up to 1500 hectares while males use at least 3000 hectares. Even if Semenggoh is 1000 hectares in size, it is still insufficient to sustain a healthy orangutan population and avoid inbreeding, which will cause the population to plummet. There is no control of breeding of orangutans at Semenggoh.

There has also been rumours that there has been no veterinary care in Semenggoh for over 10 years and it will be sold off to a Chinese company. SFC is a for profit corporation. So we question, what is Semenggoh running an orangutan adoption program for?

Orangutans should be wild and never semi-wild and orangutan tourism at Semenggoh is all about tourism money and not conservation or rehabilitation. We urge the public to channel your donations towards ethical and genuine rehabilitation centres, the ones which do not allow tourism in or near its centres. If you would like to see orangutans in Malaysia visit wild orangutans in the forest where they are far away from humans, but strictly following IUCN’s great ape tourism protocols.


November 2017 update:

A Bernama publication on 5th November 2017 claims that Semenggoh is “The biggest orangutan rehabilitation centre in Sarawak…” and that “The main goal of the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre is to rehabilitate wildlife captured due to prolonged captivity by humans with the objective of releasing them to the forests eventually…”


More voices for Lasah

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Photo: Their Turn’s protest out Malaysian consulate in NYC

On 12th August, Their Turn, an American animal rights organisation organised an amazing protest for Lasah outside the Malaysian consulate in New York City. The consulate knew the protest was coming, and it closed earlier than usual, which means authorities are paying attention to this campaign for Lasah, thanks to you. We did inform supporters about this protest in previous updates. Photos and video of the protest [thanks to Their Turn] are in the link below:

Over here in Malaysia we too of course are working hard on freeing Lasah and we will bring you more updates as our efforts progresses. In the meantime we are raising awareness publicly and we still welcome those who live in Malaysia to join us to campaign for Lasah. Non-Malaysians welcome too. We have materials for you to use and disseminate.

Thank you to those who tweeted to make the authorities here aware of Brigitte Bardot’s call for Lasah’s freedom. Over 1,500 of you tweeted! If you haven’t tweeted, please click here to tweet now.

From the time and effort we have spent thus far to rally supporters like yourself we’ve got over 7,000 tweets in total for this campaign. Thousands have written to the authorities in Malaysia. We ourselves have protested for Lasah here. And much more really!

More updates to come. Thank you for fighting for Lasah alongside us. Like you, we’ll never give up.

Friends of the Orangutans Malaysia


Orangutan attack at Sepilok

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Photo: The lifeless body of Yoda after his tragic electrocution at Sepilok


According to a Tripadvisor post made by a tourist in March 2017, an orangutan attacked a tourist at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) in the East Malaysian state of Sabah. Our sources confirmed that this incident did take place. For many years SORC has been a huge tourist attraction. But unbeknownst to tourists the tourism at SORC doesn’t abide by conservation guidelines and it does have a negative impact on the apes. The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), which manages SORC, is aware of this. The lure of financial profit at the expense of Malaysian orangutans at SORC does have its effect on the apes. The orangutan who attacked the tourist, ‘Ceria’, a rehabilitated orangutan, isn’t named in the Tripadvisor post below.



Read our media publication on the tragic death of Yoda the orangutan at SORC in 2016. Click here to read and share the publication.

The video below (not related to the attack) shows a tourist playing with two orangutans. We do not blame tourists for coming into contact with the apes for two reasons:

a) tourists are not educated on the risks of unsustainable orangutan tourism (disease, attacks) on themselves and the orangutans. Please click here to know why you should stay away from orangutan rehabilitation centres.

b) it’s mostly the apes who approach tourists at SORC


Lasah denied freedom

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Dear supporter,

On May 10th the Malaysian environment ministry announced that Lasah will remain at the Langkawi Elephant Adventures [LEA] after an evaluation.

In a publication by a government owned news agency [re-published by The Sun Malaysia] the ministry claimed that Lasah is in a “healthy condition” based on checks by the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) and the Malaysian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (Mazpa). Mazpa has previously said that elephant rides provides Lasah with exercise, an excuse while ignoring the fact that elephants used in rides are abused.

You may read the government’s response at the link below:

Our remarks:

– Our concerns regarding Lasah’s health, use and abuse has never been addressed to us, including in the article above.

– In March, eight months after the campaign for Lasah started, the environment ministry finally said that “only two of Lasah’s legs are tied” [when not exploited for tourist money] and called it normal practice.

– LEA claims Lasah was chained on all four feet to help him recover from wounds. We responded, no one replied. Our response here:

– The ministry and LEA claim the latter abides by the law. However our emails to the former regarding Lasah’s [daily] chaining relating to Malaysian wildife laws were never responded.

What you can do today:

1. The wildlife department posted a photo of Lasah on their FB page with a quote “Lasah safe in Langkawi”. Please comment:

2. Supporter Ms. Julia Savory started a petition demanding Tripadvisor remove LEA’s listings promoting them. Please sign and share her petition:

3. Donate, please help us keep our campaign going. Click on the donate button on the right of this page. Any amount will be of help.

We will not give up on Lasah and will continue campaigning. More updates soon. Thank you for all you have done so far.

Any comments? Please click here.



Friends of the Orangutans Malaysia

Lasah update – Malaysian government responds

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Dear supporter,

As we have previously informed, we had a meeting with the environment minister of Malaysia. During the meeting, which was also attended by the West Malaysia wildlife department, we informed the minister why Lasah needs to be transferred to the elephant sanctuary, the fact that Lasah has been a working elephant for over 25 years.

Soon after our meeting, the minister visited Lasah on 14th March. The ministry then announced that Lasah is in “good shape and healthy” [which we are skeptical about]. However, our concerns regarding Lasah’s condition & treatment since the start of the campaign were not addressed in the announcement.

That said, the ministry did announce on the same date that they would “hold discussions” regarding transferring Lasah to the Kuala Gandah elephant sanctuary. No further news have been forthcoming since then and we are keeping the pressure up as usual, with your support.

Supporters Christina Ku and Ariane Gogny organised a demonstration for Lasah in Santa Monica, California. While Hannah Morris Photography organised one outside the Malaysian embassy in London, U.K. Thank you! Some photos from both at link below:

The good news is that the Malaysian government have responded to this campaign, thanks to you, the supporters. Public show of support is extremely vital to this campaign and we urgently need more supporters to organise similar demonstrations. Please get in touch with us at if needed.

If you have comments, you may post them at this link.

Thank you, friends of Lasah.


Sukau bridge project scrapped

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Photo: Proboscis monkeys near Sukau, Kinabatangan. @fotomalaysia

The good news wildlife enthusiasts have been waiting and hoping for. The Sabah state government announced on April 20th 2017 that the much much maligned Sukau bridge project, in the wildlife rich Kinabatangan region of East Malaysia, has been canceled. This comes after much pressure from conservationists, including Sir David Attenborough. In early March, Sir David criticized the plans for the bridge and laid out the damage it would cost the fragile ecosystem in Kinabatangan. For more details about the cancellation of the Sukau bridge project please click here.

Our work monitoring deforestation in orangutan range in the Kinabatangan continues. If you would like to report to us regarding deforestation, orangutan abuse/killing in Kinabatangan please contact us here. If you prefer to report to us anonymously you can create a Gmail, Hotmail or other account without using your real name.

California and London demo for Lasah

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Photo: London demonstration @HannahMorrisPhotography

In March supporters in California and London of the campaign for Lasah organised public demonstrations for the abused and exploited Malaysian elephant .

A huge thank you to supporters who showed up at the demonstration for Lasah outside the Malaysian embassy in London, and to Hannah Morris Photography [HMP] for the selfless time and effort spent on organising this.

Thank you too to Supporters Christina Ku and Ariane Gogny who organised a demonstration for Lasah in Santa Monica, California.

The government of Malaysia has responded to your pressure and only continued pressure will help #FreeLasah from a life of slavery and chains.  Public show of support is extremely vital to this campaign and we urgently need more supporters to organise similar demonstrations. Please get in touch with us here if needed

For more photos from both demonstrations please click here.


Meeting with the environment minister

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Dear Supporter,

After several months of trying we have today been granted an audience with the environment minister of Malaysia, which will take place tomorrow, 1st March. Could you please help us tweet to the environment ministry to let them know you continue to demand for Lasah’s freedom? Simply click on the link below to tweet now!

Thank you to those who have recently written to the environment minister, we appreciate it.

Updates on our meeting with the minister and others will be posted soon. In the meantime please check this link to know what else you can do for Lasah.

We now only need just under 1,400 signatures to reach the 400,000 signature mark. Will you please help share this petition on your social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter?


Thank you for your kind, persistent support. With you, we have campaigned for Lasah for seven months now and we won’t give up.

Friends of the Orangutans Malaysia



Lasah Elephant Campaign – Update

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Update: 28 November 2016

Note to supporters: It seems that we might only be able to send out five updates through a petition and we have just made our 5th update on the petition for Lasah. Therefore, we suggest you sign the other petition for Lasah at as there are no limits to sending out updates on petitions. After signing the petition for Lasah you will automatically receive future updates into your email. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Dear supporter,

Thank you for helping us reach 389,450 signatures. We hope you will share the Care2 petition so we may reach 400,000 soon. We appreciate your persistent support for the campaign to #FreeLasah from his daily misery at the Langkawi Elephant Adventures [LEA] on the holiday island of Langkawi, north of Malaysia.

We recently submitted this petition and the one at to the Malaysian prime minister’s office. We will submit both petitions to the Malaysian wildlife department this week. In the meantime we are still making efforts to secure a meeting with the Malaysian Environment Minister to submit the petitions personally and to ask the minister to get Lasah transferred to the elephant sanctuary here.

To date 649 supporters like yourself have written to the Environment Ministry Malaysia to demand that Lasah be freed. Thank you very much! If you haven’t written please help keep the pressure up by writing today. Click here for details.

In the meantime, if you would like to, please leave a comment/rating on these pages to help other travelers do the right thing. Click on both links below to know more:

Follow FOTO Malaysia on Twitter today and please help us retweet our tweets to #FreeLasah.

Since our campaign for Lasah started we have persistently asked the government, through the Environment Ministry [NRE], [the wildlife department and prime minister’s department are also copied] to urgently transfer Lasah to the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary. And we will continue to do so.

The Asia for Animals coalition continues to support this campaign and have shared latest details regarding this in their November newsletter.

Thank you for your support which we truly appreciate.



FOTO Malaysia government response regarding Lasah

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On October 17th the Department of Wildlife and National Parks [the wildlife department of West Malaysia, better known as Perhilitan] responded to our and supporters’ call for Lasah the solitary working elephant on Langkawi island to be transferred to the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary. It has come to our attention that supporters of the campaign for Lasah were blind copied into the response by Perhilitan and we have decided make public our reply to Perhilitan. Below is their email followed by our response.

We hope to get continued support from you for Lasah. Visit this link for updates and more action you can take.


From: Perhilitan

Date: 17 October 2016


Dear Sir / Madam,

We have received your letter expressing concerns about Lasah, the elephant in Langkawi Elephant Adventure.

Thank you for your concern on this matter. For your information, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Malaysia through the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia has investigated these allegations and given a written response on the said matter to Malaysian media in July 2016, included here for your reference:(

The Malaysian Government is serious and committed to wildlife conservation and protection for a sustainable future for all. Your concerns on animal welfare are very much appreciated. Thorough investigations and checks have been conducted in the Langkawi Elephant Adventures premises and investigations have found the elephant to be healthy. The condition of the premises was also found to be adequate, as it fulfilled the requirements set by the department with wide spaces, shade and such.

We take this matter very seriously, therefore, we would also like to seek for your kind attention and cooperation to verify with us any issue or information so as to help us focus our efforts and resources on issues that are genuine and need to be addressed.



On 18th October Friends of the Orangutans Malaysia responded to Perhilitan. Our email is as below:



To: Mr. Abdul Kadir bin Abu Hashim
Department of Wildlife and National Parks [Perhilitan]


Dear Sir,We thank the department for the response provided. It is much appreciated. Kindly see our notes below.

1. The department declared that Lasah is healthy. However, Langkawi Elephant Adventure [LEA] has publicly announced  that Lasah “…has a medical condition that has “bugged us since” that requires them to occasionally prevent sores under the supervision of its veterinarian.” In this instance isn’t the caring and experienced staff at Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary able to provide better veterinary and husbandry care for Lasah at the sanctuary?

2. Has the department considered the comments by elephant experts we have consulted? Has the department contacted elephant vet and expert Dr. Philip Ensley, who has expressed his willingness to help?

Dr Deepani Jayantha of Elemotion Foundation International, one of several experts including globally respected experts like Ms. Carol Buckley and Dr. Ian Redmond, has previously commented regarding Lasah’s plight:

“For an animal like Lasah, which has already spent so many years in captivity entertaining people will definitely have a better life in a well managed elephant sanctuary. Better nutrition, more space, adequate water, proper exercise and rest along with social interactions will make its life healthier.”

2. Referring to the 3rd paragraph in the response, please could the department expand what does it mean by “adequate” conditions for Lasah? What standards were used please?

3. Is Lasah chained everytime LEA is closed? According to the Wildlife Conservation (Operation Of Zoo) Regulations 2012 elephants must be provided with a night stall:

Inline image 1


Besides elephant experts, respected NGOs have also asked for Lasah to be transferred to Kuala Gandah. They include:

Animal Guardians
Animal People
Animals Asia Foundation
Blue Cross of India
Change for Animals Foundation
Earth Island Institute
Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations
Humane Society International
International Animal Rescue
International Fund for Animal Welfare
Jakarta Animal Aid Network
Philippine Animal Welfare Society
Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Hong Kong
Sarawak Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
World Animal Protection

Supporters who were blind copied into the response below have written to us to express their disappointment and frustration at the department’s reaction.

Our organisation is asking for the Natural Resources & Environment Ministry (NRE) and Perhilitan to transfer Lasah to Kuala Gandah on the basis on animal welfare, regardless of LEA’s compliance/non-compliance with the wildlife law. Lasah has suffered for many years and it is time he is given the respect and care he deserves.

We hope to hear from the department/NRE soon. Thank you.