Mali the elephant
Mali the elephant Image Credit: Social media

Manila: The new chief executive of the Philippines’ capital is seeking the collective wisdom of animal welfare groups over what to do with the city zoo’s 45-year-old star attraction, “Mali the Elephant.”

Mayor-elect Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso said he needs expert advice on what is best for “Mali.”

“Animal welfare groups can visit me at any time to give me inputs. We have a Facebook account (City of Manila) where you can give suggestions,” Damagoso, a first-term Manila mayor, said.

A key concern is what’s best to do with Mali, — leave her to the care of an elephant sanctuary in Thailand or continue caring for her as the zoo’s star attraction.

Elephants are not endemic to the Philippines and Mali is the only known surviving pachyderm in the country.

Being the female half of a pair donated by Sri Lanka to the Philippines in 1973, she has lived most of her life alone and in the care of her minders at the Manila Zoo.

The non-government organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had been campaigning for her transfer to the elephant sanctuary in Thailand arguing that her continued captivity during her remaining years at the Manila Zoo is akin to torture.

“Mali is perhaps one of the world’s saddest elephants…For [more than] 40 years, she has been confined to a barren, concrete enclosure at the Manila Zoo,” said PETA, which had enlisted the support of celebrities like Paul McCartney, Pamela Anderson, among other celebrities in their campaign to transfer the elephant to a sanctuary in Thailand.

But an opposing opinion on transferring Mali had also long made rounds on Facebook.

Isa Garchitorena, a foreign schooled expert in exotic animal training and management, said in an earlier post that among other concerns, Mali may have difficulty adapting to her new environment if she is transferred to Thailand.

“She would leave her home of [more than] 42 years, be loaded in a container, flown to another country, and endure a 3-6 month quarantine before she is introduced to another elephant. She may or may not fit in with other elephants,” Garchitorena said, while pointing out that Mali is already very old for an elephant.

“Pretend Mali is your 90-year-old Lola [grandmother], and you have the opportunity to migrate to another country, will you bring your Lola?,” she said.

As for Damagoso, he said that the decision is difficult.

“I cannot just decide knowing very well that the elephant is one of the major attraction in the oldest zoo in Asia,” the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted him as saying.