Battle heats up over elephant at Manila Zoo

Katherine Visconti

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The battle over a 38-year-old female elephant in Manila Zoo rages on.

MANILA, Philippines – This 38 year old female can be a bit of drama queen.

She’s moody.

Mali’s long time handler John Chua says that if he doesn’t visit for days, she plays hard to get. But he says she always comes around.


Mali is at the center of a bigger drama.

Animal activists are fighting the Manila Zoo to move Mali from her home here to an elephant sanctuary in Thailand.

The battle heats up as an elephant clad activist from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, demands her transfer in front of the Department of Agriculture.

PETA delivers a petition to Agriculture Secretary Alcala with 60,177 signatures.

Many elephant experts agree that keeping a female elephant alone in a zoo is the most cruel thing that you can do to them. Because female elephants are very sociable. They form a herd consisting of the females in their family.

Orphaned at the age of 3 in Sri Lanka, Mali lived the past 35 years in the Manila Zoo.

Her long time handler says there is no guarantee she could socialize with other elephants since the last two elephants ostracized her.

Zoo veterinarians also worry the aging elephant would not survive the trip to Thailand.

The average lifespan of a captive asian elephant is 42 so she is geriatric or what you may call a senior citizen. We believe it is not safe for her to be transported at this age.

The Manila zoo wants to keep Mali where she is. But international vets hired by PETA say the concrete floor of her enclosure is bad for her arthritis and could be fatal.

The zoo says it is already improving her enclosure… but they have limited funds.

Both sides want what’s best for Mali but disagree on what that is.

I think they see Mali as their friend and they don’t want to lose their friend. But if they really care for Mali, if they really love Mali they should know that Mali deserves to be happy in a sanctuary. That’s where Mali belongs. She does not belong in a concrete enclosure.

But both sides agree her pen is far from ideal.

If we still are waiting for the decision, let’s all help make Mali’s life better now. 

But with government pulled into the fray, the battle over Mali’s future will likely to drag on and could leave her exactly where she is. 

Katherine Visconti, Rappler Manila. –


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