(Featured image: elephant receiving bath at Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, where AfA hopes to have Lasah rehomed to. Credit meng, used under CC BY-NC 2.0)
Y.B. Dato Sri Dr. Haji Wan Junaidi Bin Tuanku Jaafar
Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment,
Wisma Sumber Asli, No.25 Persiaran Perdana, Presint 4,
Dear Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar,
We are writing on behalf of the Asia for Animals coalition, representing international organisations with extensive knowledge of animal welfare issues.
Reflecting mounting international concern for the conservation of wild elephant populations and for the welfare of animals kept in captivity, we are writing to express our deep concerns regarding the chaining and exploitation of a male elephant ‘Lasah’, at the Langkawi Elephant Resort in Kedah.
Information provided by a local NGO suggests that Lasah was wild-caught and has since been moved between zoos, logging camps and tourism camps. Media reports  suggest that Lasah is forced to provide rides for tourists during the day – often under conditions that are likely to cause immense stress due to extreme temperatures – and is chained in the evening, causing further distress and discomfort. He is now said to spend much of his time in solitary confinement.
The use of elephants for rides and photo opportunities for the public presents severe welfare problems for the elephants, and such close proximity to an elephant presents a serious risk to public safety, with countless reports from around the world of tourists and mahouts being seriously injured and killed.
Lasah is being deprived of the ability to perform most of his natural behaviours. He is either confined, tethered, or under the ankus of the mahout. Most importantly, he is deprived of choice: choice of behavior, social encounters, activity, cognitive engagement, foraging, foods, resting times and places. Everything with which a wild animal occupies their time with him all day is denied and replaced by human-mandated activities. The combination of boredom, frustration and fear can cause severe pathology. 
Elephants may not show overt signs of distress. Chronic stress is internalised to engender physiological and psychological changes that make the animal ill over time. Chronically high levels of cortisol, immune suppression, structural changes in the brain, cognitive dysfunction, heart disease, kidney disease, weakening of the muscle structures, and endocrine disturbances are but some of the problems that chronically stressed animals may suffer from. Poor veterinary care and compromised immune function from stress can result in high parasite burdens, nutritional disturbances, viral infections, and wounds that do not heal.
Lasah is also forced to work in environmentally taxing conditions – direct sun, in the heat of the day, often with little access to food and water.
During the times when he is not being used to provide rides, he is chained for extensive periods with no opportunity to exercise. Elephants are highly social animals. Chaining provides him with no social interaction, and is likely to cause him a significant amount of stress, which can result in the manifestation of behavioural abnormalities.
With mounting awareness of, and concern for, the welfare of elephant used in entertainment facilities across South-East Asia, we urge you to take urgent action on his behalf. A place is reportedly available for him at the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, where elephant riding has been stopped in recent years. If Lasah can be rehomed to the sanctuary, this presents his best possible chance of living out the rest of his life free from abuse and in an environment which has the potential to meet his complex physical, psychological and behavioural needs.
By participating in the release and rehabilitation of Lasah, you are demonstrating a commitment from within the Ministry to animal welfare and wildlife protection. On behalf of our members globally, we urge you take strong and immediate action.
Sent on behalf of the following organisations:
- 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
- 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