Lawmaker seeks assessment of current conditions of Philippine zoos

THE pathetic condition of an elephant in Manila Zoo named Mali, enclosed in a small cage in isolation for more than three decades, prompted a lawmaker to seek a congressional probe on the current conditions of zoos in the country and review the standards and guidelines in operating zoos.

Rep. Mark Villar (Lone District, Las Piñas City), author of House Resolution 2859, urged the House Committees on Natural Resources and Ecology to conduct an inquiry, considering the habitability of zoo environment to wildlife animals and assess the capacity of all zoos in the handling of animals.

According to Villar, the issue is not just about Mali but rather the entirety of animals in zoos, in sanctuaries and in other wildlife centers where animals are being taken good care of.

“Zoos must promote the welfare of animals by beginning to put them under the care and custody of a sanctuary which reflect their natural habitats to be more ecologically amenable to animals and to other wildlife beings,” Villar said.

In filing the resolution, Villar cited Republic Act 9147, otherwise known as the “Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act,” which declares that it shall be the policy of the State to conserve the country’s wildlife resources and their habitats for sustainability.

“In the pursuit of this policy, it is the objective of the State to conserve and protect wildlife species and their habitats to promote ecological balance and enhance biological diversity,” Villar said.

Villar said as per the medical examination conducted by Dr. Henry Richardson, a world-renowned elephant veterinarian, Mali is suffering from potentially fatal foot problems and profound loneliness and suffers from chronic pressure sores open to contamination as well as foot ailments, including cracked nails, overgrown cuticles, and cracked pads.

Dr. Richardson said the lack of a preventative foot-care program is putting Mali in jeopardy of severe foot disease with accompanying pain and suffering.

Villar said there is a recommendation to transfer Mali from the Manila Zoo to an Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand. However, there is also a need to evaluate the circumstances surrounding this recommendation, like the stress to be brought by transporting Mali on board a ship, the impact of the transfer from a commonly adapted environment to a natural habitat, and the like.

“There is a need to assess the best interest of Mali and all other animals similarly situated in our zoos and other sanctuaries in order to promote the proper adaptation of wildlife animals’ environment for the best care and management of animals,” Villar stressed.

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