Manila Zoo elephant lonely, says expert

Posted at 06/19/12 11:37 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Asia is seeking the relocation of a 38-year-old elephant at the Manila Zoo, after a report from an expert said the elephant is suffering physically and psychologically.

According to Dr. Henry Richardson, the elephant (named “Mali”) is lonely and should be transferred to a sanctuary with other elephants.

Richardson said his major concern is that the elephant is "alone" at the zoo.

"Female elephants in their natural habitat never leave the herd. They are in constant communication with the other members of their family. Mali's social and psychological needs are being neglected at the Manila Zoo. Even the best intentions…cannot replace these needs, which can only be met by the companionship of other elephants,” Richardson said in his report.

“In my experience, even elephants who have been alone for more than 20 years integrate well with other elephants when moved to a sanctuary,” he added.

Richardson’s study also revealed that the female elephant is suffering from foot problems that can be fatal.

He said foot ailments, including cracked nails, overgrown cuticles, and cracked pads, are the leading cause of death in captive elephants.

Richardson noted, however, that his comments on the elephant’s "are based on a visual inspection only."

"[A] complete health evaluation requires hands-on physical manipulation and examination of all four feet, as well as blood sampling for inflammatory processes and infectious diseases. The lack of a preventative foot-care program is putting Mali in jeopardy of severe foot disease with accompanying pain and suffering," he said.

PETA, meanwhile, said it has secured a sanctuary in Thailand, which Mali will share with 14 other elephants.

PETA also said it will shoulder the travel costs of Mali’s transfer.
"Even zoos with twice the finances and expertise of the decrepit Manila Zoo have proved unable to provide adequately for elephants," said PETA Asia campaigns manager Rochelle Regodon.

"Even with the zoo's best intentions, it's only a matter of time before Mali's lack of medical care takes her life, unless she's transferred to a sanctuary immediately."