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Philippines President Benigno Aquino turns down date with former Baywatch bombshell

Rejects offer to discuss future of Mali the elephant

Benigno Aquino
Image Credit: AP
Philippines' bachelor President Benigno Aquino.
Gulf News

Manila: President Benigno Aquino has turned down an offer most men would find hard to resist — a dinner date with Hollywood bombshell Pamela Anderson.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Aquino, 53, rejected an offer by the former Baywatch star for a dinner date where the topic of the discussion would be the future of Mali, a 39-year-old elephant, who has been Manila Zoo’s sole elephant for decades.

Anderson, 45 who represents the advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), is increasingly concerned over the elephant’s long-term confinement inside the zoo’s cramped pen.

Anderson and Peta want Mali to be moved to an elephant sanctuary in Thailand where she can spend the rest of her life in the company of other elephants in a place where conditions are closer to her natural habitat in the wild.

Given to the Philippines by Sri Lanka when she was just three years old, Mali has known no other life outside the confines of her cramped pen.

But Peta and Anderson are keen to improve Mali’s plight in her remaining years.

In her letter to Aquino, Anderson wrote: “Should you find yourself in Los Angeles, I’d love to take you to dinner and talk more about how we can help Mali.”

Lacierda said the President had no plans to visit the US city.

“Pamela Anderson is in LA and the President is not going to LA anytime soon,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda said since Aquino’s schedule won’t allow him the opportunity to accept the former Playboy model’s offer for a date, another member of the President’s Cabinet would gladly accept.

“The Executive Secretary has already delegated that study to Secretary Proceso Alcala of the Department of Agriculture,” he said.

Prior to receiving Anderson’s letter, Aquino had committed himself to look into Mali’s condition.

The Canadian actress, whose recent roles include the 2006 comedy film Borat, said in her letter: “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.”

Peta has long been campaigning for the elephant. According to the advocacy group, in her current environment, Mali is denied socialisation, stimulation and room to explore.

“She endures intense confinement, loneliness, boredom, and isolation in an area a tiny fraction of the size of her natural habitat. Decades without proper veterinary care have left her with painful and potentially fatal foot problems, which the zoo is still failing to treat.”

Peta added that a growing number of progressive zoos — including many in the US and the UK — have realised that they cannot possibly fulfil the complex needs of elephants and have closed their elephant exhibits. Elephants can live to be older than 70 when in the correct environment.

“Because of the conditions at Manila Zoo, Mali is likely to die young. The best way to save her life is to send her to a place that provides proper vet care and is more like an elephant’s natural habitat. Transferring elephants is safe and routine,” it said.