MANILA, MAY 5, 2013 (MANILA BULLETIN) By Ellalyn B. De Vera - Hollywood TV and film star Pamela Anderson on Thursday asked President Benigno S. Aquino III on a "date" to discuss Manila Zoo elephant's transfer to its sanctuary.

A letter was sent to President Aquino asking him to expedite the transfer of 39-year-old Mali, an ailing elephant confined at the Manila Zoo, to a reputable sanctuary.

"Thank you for taking a strong, serious stance on her behalf by issuing a directive to consider moving her to a sanctuary. In a world filled with political self-interest, your character and integrity are inspiring," Anderson wrote.

"Gandhi once famously said, 'The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.' I know that the Philippines is a great nation. Should you find yourself in Los Angeles, I'd love to take you to dinner and talk more about how we can help Mali," she added.

PETA said Mali has been confined at the Manila Zoo for the past 39 years. It was still a nursing baby when it was taken from her home in Sri Lanka.

The group noted that wild elephants, like Mali, needs to engage in activities for up to 20 hours every day, moving about and socializing with other elephants.

However, Manila Zoo measures only 55,000 square meters, and Mali's enclosure is just a small piece of the area.

Elephant experts are calling for her transfer to a sanctuary where she can live out her days in good health and dignity as well as in the crucial company of other elephants.

They further noted that elephants can live to be older than 70 when in the correct environment.

In June 2012, veterinarian Henry Richardson said Mali suffers from potentially fatal foot problems. He had called for Mali's transfer to a sanctuary.


As Mali awaits her fate, Manila Zoo's lone elephant still charms crowds AMANDA LAGO, GMA NEWSFebruary 1, 2013 8:07pm

[For the last decade, Noel Co has been the caretaker of Mali, a 38-year-old Sri Lankan elephant. (Photo by Amanda Fernandez)]

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - It's 12 noon on a Friday and Mali is enjoying a midday shower, perfect for cooling down under the burning heat of the sun.

Her caretaker, Noel Co, splashes the first blast of water on her face, initiating a kind of bath-time choreography that both of them perform almost unaffectedly – she opens her mouth, he shoots the water in; he sprays her hind legs, she turns around. Soon enough, the incredible creature is completely doused in water.

A little later, she crosses to the other side of her small enclosure and covers herself in sand, evoking sighs all the while as her fascinated audience sighs in amusement.

Mali is a 38-year-old Sri Lankan elephant housed in The Manila Zoo, and she's become the darling of the zoo-goers and, recently, the center of an animal rights controversy.

Animal rights groups and the Manila Zoo have been engaged in an intense tug-of-war regarding Mali's fate. The animal advocates say she is suffering at the zoo and should be moved to an elephant sanctuary in Thailand to be with her own kind.

According to animal rights group PETA, Mali's enclosure is too small. More than that, they say that she is suffering from a foot disease and "profound loneliness" after living for decades without the company of other elephants.

[While animal rights activists have been calling for the transfer of Mali to a Thai elephant sanctuary, she remains a crowd favorite at the zoo. (Photo by Amanda Fernandez)]

The Manila Zoo will not agree to the move until they can be assured that Mali will survive the transfer.

Right now though, the crowd is enjoying the sight of the pachyderm in frolic. They resort to all kinds of things to catch her attention. They whistle, they hold out their cameras, they make giant gestures with their arms. The few who know her name call it out, but they are outdone by those who have taken it upon themselves to name her – Dumbo, Jumbo, Psst, Huy!

Of the voices that cry out to her, she responds to only one. From afar, someone calls her "Mali!" and she follows the sound. It's her caretaker, Co, who has thrown her some coconuts, which she promptly picks up and juices. Eliciting still more ohhhs and ahhhs.

"Pag kinakausap mo, parang nakakaintindi din siya," Co shares. "Pag gumagawa ka ng tunog na gusto niya, nagvi-vibrate din yung dito niya," he says, gesturing to her forehead.

Co appears to read Mali like a book, seeming to have mastered her moods and her movements. Mali displays an easy comfort in his presence as well, readily responding whenever he motions for her to move or open her mouth so he can clean and feed her.

Co, her caretaker, first met Mali nine years ago when he was first assigned to be her zookeeper. It took him a lot of reading on elephants and almost seven years of gentle approaches and bonding for her to be finally comfortable with him.

Now, they spend all day together. When she looks bored, he engages her in games. When it gets hot, he hoses her down.

According to Co, he is one of the handful of people that Mali recognizes and trusts. Still, Co evidently hasn't lost sight of the fact that he is dealing with a wild animal. According to him, no amount of bonding between the two of them can make him forget the dangers of his job.

"Pag nilalapitan ko siya sa umaga, siyempre ingat pa rin," he says. "Siyempre, wild pa rin yan, kahit gaano na katagal yan dito. Mahirap siya na trabaho, pero wala namang trabaho na hindi mahirap `di ba?" he adds.

On Wednesday, a resolution supporting Mali's transfer was approved by the House committee on natural resources. And while the zoo remains firm on their stand, talk of Mali's move has never been closer to being true.

While animal rights activists have been calling for the transfer of Mali to a Thai elephant sanctuary, she remains a crowd favorite at the zoo. (Photo by Amanda Fernandez)

We asked the caretaker how he would feel if and when Mali is finally moved to Thailand.

"Di lang malulungkot. Siyempre, napamahal ka na sa alaga mo. 10 taon mo halos nakasama," Co says.

He repeats Manila Zoo's arguments against the move: Mali is old, he says. If she survives the transfer at all, she may not even enjoy her new environment. In the tone of a concerned parent, Co discloses his worry that Mali may even be mistreated when he moves.

"Baka saktan din lang siya dun," he says.

What if he is allowed to go with her, just so he can make sure she is alright?

"Mas maganda yun," he says. "Para masiguro ko na aalagaan talaga siya dun." – KDM, GMA News


‘Lim has done nothing for Mali’ Philippine Daily Inquirer 8:31 pm | Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim portrays himself as a defender of justice, yet right now, he is one obstacle to righting a wrong. Ignoring the recommendations of experts around the world, Lim refuses to approve the transfer of Mali, the ailing and depressed lone elephant at the Manila Zoo, to a sanctuary.

In the face of a local and global call to action for Mali, why has the Manila government remained silent? How can the mayor and zoo officials deny this aging elephant a chance at a better life? Why are zoo officials—who have admitted that they are not elephant experts—resistant to allowing her to be relocated (at no cost to taxpayers) to a wonderful sanctuary where she can thrive and finally receive the veterinary care that she so badly needs?

True leaders exemplify progressive critical thinking. They don’t remain silent, much less simply hope that issues will just go away. Lim, who by most accounts is an intelligent man, is failing Mali, as well as all Filipinos who are rightfully appalled by Mali’s poor quality of life.

On his website, Lim goes so far as to paraphrase a quote by political theorist Edmund Burke saying that the only thing needed for evil to triumph is for all good men to do nothing. Yet he has said and done nothing for Mali.

—JASON BAKER, vice president of international operations,
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Makati City

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved