Noted primatologist and conservationist Jane Goodall has urged President Benigno Aquino III to transfer Mali, Manila Zoo’s 35-year-old elephant, to an elephant sanctuary.
"This elephant has suffered long enough," she said in a letter addressed to Aquino, posted in the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) website.
Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and a recognized expert on chimpanzees, said keeping Mali at Manila Zoo "alone in a cramped, barren pen is still ethically indefensible" even if the elephant is healthy as zoo officials said earlier this year.
"The Manila Zoo has failed Mali," Goodall said.
She noted that keeping Mali isolated and allowing her to suffer captivity-induced foot problems is not good for the elephant. She said Manila Zoo had not performed basic blood work on Mali since she was donated to the Philippines by Sri Lanka 35 years ago.
"The demonstrated lack of preventive care and prophylactic treatment is indicative of the inadequate expertise available to Mali," she said.
She said Mali should be brought to an elephant sanctuary so she can receive 24-hour medical care and "allow her to regain her physical and mental health."
Goodall, who has a doctorate in ethology (the study of animal behavior), said being in a sanctuary will let Mali "live out her days with a degree of autonomy and dignity and finally be in the company of other elephants."
In May, British musician Morrissey asked Aquino to let Mali "retire" in a sanctuary "where she would have room to roam and be able to be among other members of her own species." In response, Aquino tasked the Bureau of Animal Industry with looking into whether Mali should be transferred to a sanctuary.
"I am heartened to learn that you agree that action must be taken for this ailing elephant," Goodall said in her letter.
The Manila Zoo has said, however, that Mali might not be able to adjust to a new environment if transferred and that she is in good hands at the zoo.