Miriam wants probe on transfer of ‘Mali’ from Manila Zoo to a Thailand sanctuary

SENATOR Miriam Defensor- Santiago on Wednesday filed a bill seeking an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the reported need to transfer Mali, the only female elephant in Manila Zoo, to a sanctuary in Thailand due to the animal’s frail health.

In her explanatory note in Senate Resolution NO. 884, Santiago said various media reported that according to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Mali, the only female elephant staying in Manila Zoo, has developed health problems due to her 35 year-stay in the zoo without receiving proper care and attention.

She added that report alleged that Malacañang has instructed the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) to evaluate the condition of Mali and determine if it would be advisable to transfer her to a sanctuary.  Despite this, the BAI has yet to issue a report on Mali’s condition.

“Given Mali’s old age, the BAI and other pertinent government offices should act swiftly in addressing Mali’s welfare,” Santiago said.

Santiago added that Mali’s retirement and transfer will benefit not just Mali, but also the city of Manila; the government will garner international goodwill and media coverage, and will be seen as a leader on animal welfare issues.

“According to PETA, keeping a solitary female elephant is extremely detrimental to her mental health and well-being, and that just because Mali has spent most of her life at the zoo is no justification to keep her there until she dies,” Santiago explained.

The senator cited the study conducted by Dr. Henry Melvyn Richardson, a well-renowned elephant veterinarian, who reportedly expressed concern over Mali’s health and living conditions, claiming that Mali suffers from fatal foot problems, including chronic pressure sores on her feet, which are open to contamination; days’ worth of accumulated feces and urine in her sleeping quarters; and cracked nails and pads and overgrown cuticles, all of which can harbour bacteria and become infected.

“Dr. Richardson claimed that infection is the leading cause of death among captive elephants,” Santiago averred.

She also mentioned the statement made by the world known animal authority Dr. Jane Goodall, “that the Manila Zoo has failed Mali; not only she is suffering from isolation and captivity-induced foot problems; she [also] has not even had basic blood work conducted in the three and a half decades that she has been in the zoo.”

Santiago said that PETA has already secured a home for Mali in a sanctuary in Thailand and has elephant experts ready to care for Mali in her new home; reports also claimed that elephants, who have long been held in captivity, thrived once they are moved to sanctuaries;

“PETA gave its assurance that the transfer will not cost taxpayers a single centavo as all costs will be shouldered by the organization,” Santiago said.

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