KUALA LUMPUR: Screen legend Brigitte Bardot has urged the government to let a wild-born Malaysian elephant kept in captivity in Langkawi to retire in the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary.
The former singer and actress expressed her concerns about the elephant, named Lasah, in a letter to Natural Resources and Environmental Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, dated Oct 11.
Bardot, a renown animal activist, said she was aware that Lasah lived alone and chained for several hours a day. She added that the elephant was used and abused for tourism purposes on the island.
She said, according a Malaysian NGO, media reports and several petitions, Lasah had been used in tourism and entertainment for more than 25 years, worked in a logging camp and spent many years in zoos in and outside the country.
"As you and your Ministry are aware, the only way elephants accept being ridden by tourists is by being crushed and frequently abused.
"Thanks to the advent of the internet and different social medias, this fact is now a common knowledge.
"It is also widely known that elephants must not be kept alone in captivity, males included. Depriving Lasah of the companionship of other elephants is cruel and has severe psychological impact on him, not to mention the repetitive elephant rides and the chains," she said in the letter.
Bardot added that the abuses and exploitation of Lasah has prevented him from expressing his natural behaviors, such as foraging and interacting with other elephants thus why retiring him to the sanctuary would offer him the opportunity to do so.
"To this day, the Malaysian government has spent tens of millions of Ringgit on pandas coming from China, and I can only hope that such a financial effort translates a certain concern about wildlife.
"Therefore I believe that the Malaysian government will have no problem with welcoming and caring for Lasah, who is a Malaysian-born elephant, at the sanctuary.
"It is a moral and ethical obligation to give Lasah the freedom he needs and deserves after so many years of suffering.
"I respectfully ask the Malaysian government to retire Lasah to the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary where he can live as a free elephant without fear of abuse and exploitation.
"This is what Lasah deserves and the gesture of compassion everyone expects from the Malaysian government," she said.
In July last year, Langkawi Elephant Adventure had dismissed allegations that it had abused Lasah.