Thursday, 12 September 2013

Letter to the Editor: Investigate Reports of Cruelty to Elephants in Resort

SPCA Selangor views with concern the videos which surfaced on Astro Awani in late August documenting incidences of cruelty and negligence towards captive elephants kept at the A' Famosa Resort in Melaka. This is not the first time the Resort has been implicated in wildlife cruelty.
The Resort was instructed by the Dept of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) to cease offering animal shows and photo opportunities with tigers in May 2010 following public outrage and investigations by Perhilitan. Yet Perhilitan has dismissed recent reports of cruelty against elephants and videos evidencing the same, and had claimed that there is no mistreatment of the elephants and no contravention of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010. This could set a dangerous precedent of indifference towards objective and credible evidence tendered by citizens who are expressly encouraged on Perhilitan's website to report incidences of abuse and exploitation of wildlife. It would also perpetuate a culture of impunity of wildlife crimes.
We are especially concerned over Perhilitan's brief and cavalier denial of the abuse and statement that the living conditions of the elephants were "okay". What would the beatings of the elephants constitute, if not abuse and mistreatment?
We believe that concerned members of the public have a right to know whether the elephants were assessed by independent veterinarians, what the findings are, under what standards and guidelines are the elephants' living conditions considered "okay", and whether there will be regular follow-up assessments of the wildlife kept by the said Resort by Perhilitan. Perhilitan is endowed with the power to monitor wildlife displays and wildlife in captivity.
The closure of the Saleng Zoo in June 2011 demonstrates that Perhilitan is capable of taking positive action against errant zoos and wildlife facilities. SPCA Selangor therefore urges Perhilitan to carry out its investigations in a transparent and neutral manner, giving consideration not only to the current conditions in the Resort, but also to the photographic and documentary evidence previously tendered by visitors.
We urge Perhilitan to take appropriate action under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 without fear or favour. It is noted that A' Famosa Resort has a special permit from the Minister of Science, Technology and Environment to keep elephants for "ecotourism" purposes. We must take into cognisance that there are insufficient regulations in Malaysia on what businesses may use the label of ecotourism, despite the existence of a National Ecotourism Plan and a relatively sophisticated legal framework where wildlife and the environment are concerned.
SPCA Selangor wishes to remind consumers to carry out basic research on tourist destinations and tour operators before paying for services and experiences that may in fact harm animal populations, the natural environment and the local community. Ecotourism must necessarily sensitize people to the beauty of nature and vulnerability of wildlife and animals. Animals are trained to give rides or perform tricks through beatings and cruel training methods, including by the withholding of food. Animals performing tricks do not teach us anything about the natural history of the animal, their conservation status or their needs.
As a purportedly caring society, we must learn to appreciate wildlife as they are, and from a distance, without feeling the need to manhandle them and force them to entertain us. Until full and fair investigations are carried out and necessary action taken to end the suffering of the animals kept in A' Famosa Resort, SPCA Selangor urges all Malaysians and tourists to cease visiting the said Resort and other wildlife facilities and travelling zoos in which animals are kept in deplorable conditions.
Wong Ee Lynn
Senior Volunteer
SPCA Selangor

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