Free Mali, Manila Zoo's Lone Elephant. Inquirer. Editorial. Peter Wallace.
The battle rages on over Mali, the lone elephant at the Manila Zoo. In 1977, she was taken there as a a goodwill gift from Sri Lanka to Imelda Marcos. She was still a child back then. Yes, I refer to animals like they were humans. It is never "it," but always a he or she. Surely, a mind-shift whose time has come. When we relegate animals to a form of "it," we open the door to all sorts of abuse and liberties upon them. "It" makes them subhuman. What an incredible thought---something lower than a human.
Below is my response to an editorial that appeared in a local newspaper in Manila. The writer, obviously, supports the Stay Mali movement as opposed to the Free Mali movement. The former favors extending captivity while the latter favors freedom. We want Mali transferred to a sanctuary in Thailand where she can socialize with other elephants and live in an environment that may not be perfect but closer to reality. She has not been with another elephant for more than thirty years. Her life literally spent in solitary confinement. Mali lives in a concrete enclosure at the Manila Zoo with a leaky faucet for a waterfall and painted trees on the walls for greenery. The zoo officials gave her an old truck tire for a toy, and she ignored it. It is all so pathetic.
Peter, thanks for your opinion. It should be obvious to you that coming up with realistic solutions is far more difficult than editorializing on the fate of a nonspeaking, long-held captive animal. We can go around in circles discussing compassion and ethics, but seeking real solutions will inevitably have us confront the hard facts, the specifics that no conjecturing will resolve.
For one, there is the matter of space. The zoo covers approximately 5.5 hectares. Maali's enclosure is just a fraction of that area which, by my generous estimation, would come to 100x100 meters. An Asian elephant, in its natural environment, would cover a walking distance of 20-30 miles. And a herd of Asian elephants, living in the wild, would require an estimated roaming area of 30,000 hectares. If renovation is the answer, then the final product should come as close as possible to this ideal.
How would the the city bankroll such an expansive and expensive renovation? How could the city spend so much money on a zoo in the face of other pressing social problems? How? Please show us through the process, the money trail. The city is in a state of penury. You said it yourself.
The Singaporeans are not the answer. Stop pointing at the Singaporeans like they are cavalry on their way to our rescue. Cavalry have been known not to show up, and Estrada has said things that were never true. There are no specifics about the Singaporeans’ offer of a P2 billion renovation , no specifics about their construction plans, and no guaranty that Singaporean investors would invest money on a facility that, by your own description, cannot generate sufficient revenue.
The city cannot provide the proper care and environment for Maali. It’s time to evolve into a higher form of existence where the concepts of compassion and empathy are not incomprehensible but commonplace.