Elephant that died wasn’t expected to live past 5 years, says park

Minister Christina Liew inspects the elephants at the park during her visit today.

KOTA KINABALU: The 15-year-old male juvenile elephant that died in captivity at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park three days ago was not expected to live past five years when it was first rescued in 2003.

According to the park’s resident doctor Dr Symphorosa Sipangkui, the elephant which they named Yapid was only three months old when he was first rescued in Sandakan.

“He was handicapped, having difficulty in swallowing food. We did not expect him to live beyond five years. But he did, thanks to the care of the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the veterinarians at the park,” she said when met at the park here today.

Symphorosa said Yapid was initially given medication including steroids to help him cope with his disability. However, this was stopped as the vets were worried that the medication could have negative effects on his kidneys.

Nevertheless, she said, Yapid lived far beyond the estimation of the park’s vets.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christina Liew said when she heard about Yapid’s story, she realised that not many knew about the goings-on and success stories of the park.

On the contrary, she said, only bad news would emerge and would go viral on social media without users verifying the accuracy of the reports.

“As a result, every time we heard of bad PR coming out of the park, we had to rush here for fact-finding missions. For this reason, I have decided that the park will appoint a public relations officer to engage the public on the status of the park.

“This park is not a normal zoo because it is also a place where private parties send rescued animals. A PR office would be able to notify the public of new animals, new attractions, news about the health of the residents, anything,” she added.

Liew said news about Yapid’s death would have sent the wrong message to the public if they did not know the real story behind the elephant’s death.

As for the death of a 3-year-old female calf called Gondu on May 8, Liew said she was told that the post-mortem did not reveal any specific cause of death.

The calf, which was born in the park and was still under the care of the mother, died a few days after showing signs of sickness. The park’s resident vets suspected it was due to a virus infection.

At the moment, the 14 pygmy elephants at the park are unable to roam freely in their normal enclosure as it is under construction. The enclosure is expected to reopen next month.

Liew said in order to provide better medical care for the animals, the ministry would also engage private veterinarians to help take care of them.

She said the vets could also act as advisers to the park and provide second opinions in case a disease breaks out among the animals.