As I See It

Transfer suffering zoo elephant to sanctuary


There is now a raging controversy between animal welfare groups and the veterinarians of the Manila Zoo over the fate of Mali, the lone zoo elephant. The animal welfare groups want the elephant transferred to a sanctuary in Thailand because its zoo enclosure is too small and Mali cannot roam as elephants do in the wild, which makes her bored and makes her suffer and may shorten her life. What’s more, Mali is severely overweight because she lacks exercise. Obesity is one of the leading causes of death in captive elephants.

The other leading causes are foot infections and arthritis and right now Mali has a foot infection that is not being properly treated by the zoo veterinarians who have admitted that they are not elephant experts and lack the training in elephant care and the resources to be able to provide what Mali needs.

The animal welfare group, Peta, has offered to pay the expenses for the care and transportation of Mali to the Thai sanctuary.

The Manila Zoo administration, on the other hand, claims that Mali is just fine here, is well taken care of (but which she is not) and is loved by zoo visitors. Indeed, Mali is the most popular animal in the zoo and the visitors, especially children, may really love her. But just loving her is not the same as being able to care for her properly. In order for her to be happy, she has to be able to roam the forests as elephants do in the wild. In the sanctuary, Mali would be able to do that with other elephants. And elephant experts would take care of her.

Some people ask: If we transfer Mali, won’t children lose on an educational opportunity to view an elephant?

The animal welfare groups reply:

“It is only a very small portion of the children in the Philippines—those in Metro Manila—who ever have an opportunity to view Mali. We need to consider what we’re teaching our children if we don’t take this opportunity to transfer Mali when we can. If we have the opportunity to give Mali a better life, we should. Children learn little by watching a depressed elephant Mali pace in her enclosure. They would learn to appreciate elephants more by watching documentary programs, doing Internet research and reading books. When Mali leaves, it will be a massive event and everyone in the country will know that she is leaving. Youth will learn a valuable lesson by witnessing the compassionate act of transferring Mali to a sanctuary.”

Why is transferring Mali important?

Answer: “Even though Mali has lived in captivity for 35 years,  she is still a wild animal at heart. She has instincts and the desire to exhibit behaviors that come natural to her. A sanctuary can offer her acres to roam, ponds to bathe in, fresh vegetation to eat, foraging opportunities and, most importantly, the company of many other elephants. Life is more than just walls and food.

“A growing number of progressive zoos—including several in the United States and the United Kingdom—have realized that they cannot possibly fulfill the complex needs of elephants and have closed their elephant exhibits. The government of India has ordered that all elephants in zoos be transferred to government-run sanctuaries and reserves.”

Can’t changes be made at the zoo to make Mali happy there?

“The zoo has no elephant expert, and they have proven their lack of elephant knowledge by failing to provide vet care to Mali. She has two poorly designed pools (one of which we’ve never seen water in) and no soft ground for her feet). The most basic enclosure for elephants starts at about $16 million with many over $100 million. The zoo, despite their best efforts, does not have the resources or knowledge to care for Mali, and cannot add another elephant.”

Won’t Mali live longer in the zoo?

“A study published in the Journal of Science cites that captive elephants are often obese (Mali is overweight). This, coupled with stress and common feet problems, is the reason that many captive elephants die decades earlier than their wild counterparts. During the study, researchers looked at wild elephants in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, working elephants in Burmese logging camps and elephants in zoos in Europe. The study found that, on average, African elephants lived just half as long in captivity as they do in the wild. And life is more than just existing.  In a sanctuary, Mali can truly be happy. She will finally get the opportunity to live with other elephants again.”

Do we know how she will be assimilated with other elephants?

“As Dr. Mel Richardson said, ‘In my experience, even elephants who have been alone for more than 20 years integrate well with other elephants when moved to a sanctuary.’ Here is just one example: Tina, a 33-year-old elephant, spent much of her life alone at the Greater Vancouver Zoo in Canada after she was sold there at the age of two. In 2003, after a 3.5-day cross trip to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, USA, Tina arrived at her forever home. Although Tina, as would all elephants, took some time to adjust to her new surroundings, she made many friends at the sanctuary and was successfully integrated into their herd. Her best friend at the sanctuary was Tara, and the two were almost inseparable.”

Happily, President Aquino has ordered the transfer of Mali, but zoo administrators and the Bureau of Animal Industry are still trying to make the President change his mind. If you care for Mali, write to the President in support of Mali’s transfer and salvation.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

More from this Column:

Other Stories:

No related posts found!

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Short URL: http://opinion.inquirer.net/?p=31929

Tags: animal welfare , featured column , mali the elephant , Manila Zoo

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


  • Healing priest invites political leaders to join ‘prayer for nation’
  • Tagle: Christ’s resurrection a message of hope to faithful
  • Aquino vows to intensify anti-corruption drive further
  • Unease in Vatican over cardinal’s luxury flat—report
  • Nepal calls off search for missing guides on Everest—official
  • Sports

  • Wawrinka beats Federer to win Monte Carlo Masters
  • Rain or Shine grabs No.4, sends Ginebra to 8th
  • Red-hot Alaska rips injury-depleted San Mig Coffee
  • Pacquiao courtesy call to Aquino set for Monday
  • Nick Calathes suspension a reminder of supplement risk
  • Lifestyle

  • Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  • ‘Imports’ from London, and play of the year
  • Korean animation comes of age
  • Kristo gathers 100 artists
  • ‘Magkabilaan’ concert at Peta celebrates 20-year dance partnership
  • Entertainment

  • Easter musings
  • Solenn in shorts
  • Unmerry mix of attention-calling moves on ‘Mini-Me’ TV tilts
  • Persistence pays off for The 1975
  • Special section in LA fest for Filipino films
  • Business

  • BDO seen keen on bidding for Cocobank
  • Bataan freeport investment pledges up 1,302%
  • Golden Week
  • Bourse to woo Cebu stock mart investors
  • Supper power
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Epiphany
  • Unpaid creditor vs distressed debtor
  • Moving on
  • From culinary desert to paradise
  • Response to China: ‘Usjaphil’
  • Global Nation

  • Japan presents $57-B ‘dream plan’ to solve Metro congestion
  • Tim Tebow’s charity hospital in Davao seen to open in 7 months
  • OFW died of Mers-CoV in Saudi Arabia, says family
  • Aquino, Obama to tackle US pivot to Asia during state visit
  • Asia seeks Obama’s assurance in territorial spats
  • Marketplace