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.


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:

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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.


Orangutan public awareness volunteers wanted

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Friends of the Orangutans (Malaysia) is currently looking to enlist two highly passionate Malaysian volunteers, part time, to join us in preserving our national heritage, the orangutan. You will play a major role in our awareness raising programme on orangutan conservation.



–          Lead and conduct awareness raising programmes in national schools and in public,

–          Communicate with national schools to set schedules for presentations,

–          Take part in public events organized by the NGO.



–          Able to conduct awareness raising programmes during weekdays too

–          Fervent passion and beliefs in animal rights and environmental issues,

–          Good communication skills

–          Punctuality,

–          Proficient in Bahasa Malaysia, both written and spoken,

–          Good command of English, both written and spoken,

–          Computer proficient, especially with MS Power Point,

–          Valid driving licence, preferably possess your own vehicle

–          Based in Kuala Lumpur/Selangor


This is a volunteer position. However, your traveling costs will be covered by the NGO.


Interested candidates should email us and include a copy of your resume.

For more details please email us at, thank you.

Why you should stay away from orangutan rehabilitation centres

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What’s wrong with visiting orangutan (and other great ape) rehabilitation centres? Orangutans undergoing rehabilitation should not/must not be exposed to the public for two reasons:

1. Risk of disease transmission – orangutans who contract diseases such as hepatitis, tuberculosis and influenza (from humans or other orangutans) may not be releasable into the wild and doomed to a lifetime of captivity. Humans can also get infected by orangutans as we share 97% of their DNA.

2. Habituation to humans – Habituated orangutans may fail rehabilitation and never make it back into the wild. It is for this reason ethical and responsible orangutan rehabilitation centres such as International Animal Rescue’s orangutan rehabilitation centre in Kalimantan, Indonesia, does not allow any form of tourism and strictly control the presence of people unconnected to their centres. To make matters worse, the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) in the East Malaysian state of Sabah allows rotating volunteers to be part of the rehabilitation process. These individuals pay to volunteer at SORC for four weeks and there are a maximum of twelve people in a group. Click here to know why this can have an impact on the rehabilitant apes at SORC.

Please reconsider visiting or volunteering at rehabilitation centres which offer hands-on activities with rehabilitant orangutans, such as at SORC. The Sabah Wildlife Department, which manages SORC, is aware that tourism must not be allowed in great ape rehabilitation centres. Besides, the tourism at SORC doesn’t abide by the “Best practice guidelines for great ape tourism” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature [IUCN]. See here for more details. If you want to see orangutans in Malaysia, see them in the wild, like at Kinabatangan in Sabah, Malaysia.

Please also read Orangutan Project’s excellent article on human-orangutan contact and its consequences, click here to read.


Three photos in this post of visitors to Sepilok in contact with orangutans.


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The banks and investors exposed to deforestation risks in Southeast Asia

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Rainforest Action Network has produced an excellent report on financiers which backs companies involved in forest destruction, including for palm oil. The report can be viewed at this website:

Meanwhile, Clean Malaysia has published article with a summary of the report. Link to the article can be found here. Excerpt from Clean Malaysia’s article is as follows:

“Between 2010 and 2015 lenders from around the world gave an estimated total of US$50 billion (RM205 billion) to corporate entities, including palm oil companies, that engaged in extensive deforestation in the two countries. The total value of loans Malaysian banks gave to companies engaged in forest clearance amounted to US$7.7 billion (RM31.6 billion).

The top two financiers of companies that posed threats to forests were Malayan Banking and CIMB in Malaysia: each provided loans amounting to US$2.5 billion (RM10.25 billion) for such purposes.”

Help save Lasah the elephant

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Lasah is a 37 year old wild born elephant who has suffered in zoos, tourism and entertainment for over 25 years.


Please click here to help #FreeLasah.


Lasah has been forced to work in a logging camp, lived in zoos including Singapore Zoo, perform in shows including in a popular Malaysian entertainment outlet and used in commercials and the 1999 film Anna and the King.


Chained on all four legs


12 years ago he was sent to the popular Malaysian tourist island, Langkawi and since then has been used by the profit-making Langkawi Elephant Adventures [LEA]. There, Lasah is used for elephant rides and lives all alone, which is devastating for a social animal like elephants. LEA also continues to offer Lasah for other commercial purposes on their website.

In July 2016 activists exposed photos of Lasah chained on all four legs behind public eyes during LEA’s closing hours. In March 2017, eight months after the campaign for Lasah started, the Malaysian environment ministry said that Lasah is chained on two feet (when not exploited for tourist money).

Lasah has suffered for too long. This abuse must stop. Please help #FreeLasah so he may get to a sanctuary in Cambodia.

Click on the link below to take action now.





Indonesia’s zoos from hell

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Below we post a special commentary by the CEO of Nature Alert regarding the dreadful condition of many zoos Indonesia. Orangutans and other wildlife are mismanaged and abused by uncaring zoos and they need urgent help.

Zoos in Indonesia have been in the news recently for all the right and wrong reasons.

Let me explain. In one day the Jakarta Post, recently published two articles critical of what is supposed to be Indonesia’s flagship zoo: Ragunan. In reality it’s a horrible place to visit. Most people go there at weekends only to escape the mayhem elsewhere in Jakarta.

What was refreshing about one article were the candid opinions of a zoo keeper. He clearly cared about the tigers he was responsible for. Even so, he admits tigers should not be imprisoned.

People do not go to Jakarta Zoo to learn about the animals. Mostly, they go to tease and torment them, because this zoo, like all others in Indonesia, is there to entertain and attempt to make a profit. They have nothing to do with conservation or education. Any foreigner who has the misfortune to visit this zoo on a weekend will surely live to regret it – the stuff of nightmares.

I’ve been visiting Ragunan Zoo for about twenty years and in that time have seen nothing improve. Yes, I have had plenty of sleepless nights after each visit.


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Orangutan at Ragunan Zoo (Photo: Friends of the Orangutans Malaysia)

Elsewhere in Indonesia you can easily see, if so inclined, widespread cruelty in zoos. It’s impossible to avoid. One of the worst is known as the ‘Zoo from Hell’, at Bandung, the capital of West Java province.  This place is an endless pit of animal neglect and depravity. A sickening place to visit with starving animals and filth everywhere.

Now, anyone with a heart, might reasonably ask, ‘why does the government permit this zoo to remain open, especially as the Mayor of Bandung, agrees the zoo is hell on earth for animals and is on record as saying he’s told the ministry of environment and forestry many times to close the zoo, but they won’t?’

When well-meaning NGOs like SCORPION offered their help and free food for the animals at Bandung Zoo, the manager aggressively denied there was anything wrong. Tachrir Fathoni, director general of ecosystem and natural resource conservation, has shown no interest in this, or any other zoo, in dire need either of closing, or new management.

All the evidence suggests neither the minister, or Tachrir Fathoni, care one bit about this zoo or the many others where animal suffering is of a plague-like scale. If you are fortunate not to have visited any of these zoos, imagine a concentration camp for animals and you will get the picture.

What happens next? Probably, nothing. Why? Because no one in the environment and forestry ministry cares. Not a single individual in the ministry has shown the slightest interest, or concern, for the appalling state of Indonesia’s zoos.

What can you do to help? If you want to avoid encouraging animal cruelty and depravity, being reduced to tears by the sight of sick and hungry animals, your children being exposed to dirt and disease, it’s best to stay away from every zoo in Indonesia.

If you doubt what I say, you need only to look on TripAdvisor for comments about any zoo. Just remember these comments are made by visitors – not NGOs or experts in animal welfare – people whose comments would be a lot more detailed and harsh.

Am I biased? Yes. Along with others, I do my best to speak for the animals incarcerated in dreadful zoos, unable to speak for themselves.


Sean Whyte


Nature Alert

Poster campaign for Lasah

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Help us #FreeLasah! We have just launched our photo campaign in our continued efforts to free Lasah the elephant from a life of torment on the holiday island of Langkawi to a elephant sanctuary in Cambodia.

This wild born elephant has spent all his life in zoos, a logging camp, used in films and commercials and is now used for tourists to ride on him. Recently investigators found Lasah chained on all four legs when he was not being made to work for tourist money. For more information on Lasah’s plight click here.

Without your support none of our previous campaigns would have been victorious. The very unfortunate Lasah has got only YOU to rely on. Please help us free Lasah today and join our photo campaign.


1. Download and print the poster from this link:

  • To save the photo onto your computer: right click anywhere on the poster,  click ‘Save Image As’ and save the poster in the folder of your choice in your computer.

2. Take a photo of yourself with the poster (example: photo of the child above)

3. Send your photos to, OR

4. Tweet us your photos at


Please let us know if you need help!


Please remember to sign and share the petition for Lasah at this link.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
– Margaret Mead


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PepsiCo exposed again

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PepsiCo, one of the biggest food manufacturers in the world, has been exposed again for its use of Conflict Palm Oil.

Manik, who is trafficked into work on a Malaysian palm oil plantation, trapped in debt and without his passport; Sutantri, a young mother who accepts part-time work with toxic chemicals so she can provide for her family; and Adi, a father who must bring his wife and children to work on the plantation so he can make his quota and afford to make ends meet for his family.

These are just some of the victims of Conflict Palm Oil in Malaysia and Indonesia. FOTO joins Rainforest Action Network in exposing PepsiCo‘s use of Conflict Palm Oil. Please watch and share this short video to expose the truth.