PH’s lone elephant, Mali, dies

On November 28, 2023, the nation mourned the loss of a beloved animal friend. Manila Mayor Honey Lacuna confirmed the passing of Mali, the Philippines’ lone elephant and Manila Zoo’s resident gentle giant in a Facebook video yesterday evening.

Mali’s cause of death is yet to be determined as her body is still undergoing necropsy. At the time of her demise, Mali was approximately 49 years old.

Mali the elephant

Mali The Elephant Manila Zoo 2009
Mali in 2009.
Image credit:
Micropawn217 via Wikimedia Commons

Mali, whose original name is Vishwa Ma’ali, is a female Asian elephant who was found orphaned in the wild in Sri Lanka in 1974.

At age 3, the Sri Lankan government gifted her to then Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos as a symbol of diplomacy. The elephant was initially presented at the Malacañang Palace before being transferred to Manila Zoo, where she has resided since.

She wasn’t always the only elephant in the zoo but her companion, another female elephant named Shiba, was aggressive towards her. Shiba also died after 6 years, leaving Mali to live most of her life alone in her enclosure.

Past calls for Mali’s release

Mali The Elephant Manila Zoo 2018
Mali in 2018.
Image credit: RBurri2 via Wikimedia Commons

There had been previous efforts by animal rights activists to free Mali from captivity.

In 2012, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) spearheaded a campaign advocating for Mali’s relocation to an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. The campaign highlighted concerns about the zoo’s inadequate care for Mali, branding her as “perhaps one of the world’s saddest elephants.”

However, there were also concerns about the elephant’s ability to adapt to a new environment, having lived most of her life alone in an enclosure.

The following year, the elephant underwent a checkup in a lead-up to a potential transfer to Thailand. But while the elephant was found to be healthy and just a little bit obese, the plan seemed to have fallen through.

Run free, Mali!

Numerous netizens took to social media to share their sorrow and reminisce about their cherished memories of Mali the elephant. While many may not have personally encountered her, their collective sentiments express the hope for the beloved elephant to find freedom and joy in paradise.

If you’re looking to provide a home to a rescue animal, here are some things to know about adopting a pet. Also check out these pet hotels in Metro Manila where you can leave your fur babies when you go on vacation,

Cover image adapted from: Wolfgang Hägele via Wikimedia Commons


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