Oct 17 (HKS) An elderly elephant named Mali given by Sri Lanka is the star at Manila's zoo but also the focus of a campaign alleging animal cruelty that has united the country's powerful bishops, global pop stars and a Nobel laureate.
Mali, who is 38, spends her days picking peanuts from children's hands and being squirted with water in a concrete-floored enclosure that animal rights groups say is far too small for any elephant, AFP’s Mynardo Macaraig reports.
They also say that, after being shipped from Sri Lanka when she was three years old, Mali is suffering profound loneliness after living her entire adult life without another elephant.
“She is definitely unwell. As much as her physical suffering... there is also psychological suffering,'' Rochelle Rigodon, campaign manager for Manila-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, told AFP.
PETA began campaigning for Mali to be removed from the zoo seven years ago, and its efforts to have the elephant spend the rest of her life at a sanctuary in Thailand have brought together a strikingly diverse group of people.
British pop star Morrissey, 2003 Nobel laureate in literature J.M. Coetzee and famous animal welfare campaigner Jane Goodall have all written letters to the government asking for Mali to be transferred.
“Mali is cruelly denied stimulation, room to explore... [and] is in danger of going insane,'' Morrissey wrote in a letter to President Benigno Aquino when he performed in Manila in May.
Archbishop Jose Palma, president of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference, has also written a letter calling for Mali to be moved to Thailand.
He has formed an unlikely union with local fashion models and actresses, such as Isabel Roces and Chin-Chin Gutierrez, who have posted messages expressing concern about Mali's plight to their masses of Twitter followers.
Their campaign has had some success, with Aquino ordering the Bureau of Animal Industry in May to evaluate if Mali should be transferred to Thailand. So far, no decision has been announced.