Manila Zoo’s lone elephant Mali dies

James Patrick Cruz

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Manila Zoo’s lone elephant Mali dies

COOLING OFF. Asian Elephant Mali bathes at Manila Zoo on January 22, 2019.


(2nd UPDATE) Mali died due to congestive heart failure and suffered from cancer in the pancreas, says Manila Zoo Chief Veterinarian Heinrich Patrick Peña-Domingo

MANILA, Philippines – Vishwa Ma’ali, popularly known as Mali, the last remaining elephant of Manila Zoo, died around 3:45 pm on Tuesday, November 28, Manila Mayor Honey Lacuna said.

Mali died due to congestive heart failure and suffered from cancer in the pancreas, Manila Zoo Chief Veterinarian Heinrich Patrick Peña-Domingo said in a press briefing on Wednesday, November 29. 

Domingo said her kidney showed signs of mild inflammation, nodules were identified around her liver, and her uterus had “pus deposits.”

Mali died at the age of 43. He said the average life span of an elephant of her kind is 40 to 45 years old.

Since she was given under the care of the City of Manila in May 1981, Mali had been part of the childhood of many Filipinos visiting the zoo in the country’s capital.

After being shipped from Sri Lanka when she was 11 months old, Ma’ali, an Asian elephant, was believed to be suffering from profound loneliness after living most of her entire adult life without companions of the same species. She was a gift by the Sri Lankan government to then-First Lady Imelda Marcos. 

‘Saddest elephants’

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) lamented the death of the gentle giant. 

“Because of indifference and greed, Mali died the same way she had lived for nearly 50 years – alone in a barren concrete pen,” PETA said in a statement on Wednesday.

PETA described Mali as one of the “world’s saddest elephants.”

There had been calls to release Mali – from the terms of former Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada to Isko Moreno. These appeals, however, were all rejected.

PETA said Mali’s solitary confinement was “torture for female elephants, who in nature spend their lives among their mothers and sisters, protecting one another and raising each other’s calves – and now she has lost any chance of happiness.”

“Despite PETA’s repeated warnings, zoo and city officials ignored Mali’s clearly painful foot problems, the leading cause of death in captive elephants—and if they caused her death, too, every person who denied her veterinary care and blocked her transfer to a sanctuary should be held accountable,” the group said. 

PETA also urged the public “to stay away from any business that puts animals on display.”

In 2012, a campaign was launched to free the elephant, which drew support from Philippine bishops, global pop stars, and Nobel Laureate John Maxwell Coetzee. 

Manila Zoo’s lone elephant Mali dies

“Mali lived a difficult life in a limited space, far from the open jungle where normal animals bask in freedom,” said Father Danny Pajarillaga, parish priest of Christ the King Parish in Filinvest II, Quezon City, in a reflection on Mali’s death.

“But he faithfully fulfilled his mission up to the last day of his life, i.e., to give joy to the children, and happy memories to old ones,” Pajarillaga said. – with a report from Paterno R. Esmaquel II/

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James Patrick Cruz

Patrick Cruz is a researcher and writer for Rappler’s governance cluster. Before transferring to Rappler's Research team, he covered local governments focusing on Metro Manila.