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Mali, ‘world’s saddest elephant,’ dies after 33 solitary years at zoo

30 November 2023 08:18 am - 9     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Philippines, Nov.30 (New York Post) - Vishwamali, nicknamed Mali, died on Nov. 28 of congestive heart failure at Manila Zoo in Manila, Philippines.

It was believed that Mali was in her late forties.

Mali’s death was announced on Tuesday in a Facebook video posted by Manila Mayor Honey Lacuna, whose happy childhood memories include frequent visits to see the elephant at the zoo.

Many on social media mourned the animal’s death, and several activists, including Dr. Jane Goodall and Paul McCartney, pleaded with authorities to transfer the animal to an elephant sanctuary when she was still alive.

Mali lived alone in her pen for most of her life, according to the BBC, and arrived at the zoo in 1981. 

The beloved Asian elephant first started showing signs of distress last Friday when she was rubbing her trunk against a wall, a sign she was in pain, according to chief veterinarian Dr. Heinrich Patrick Peña-Domingo.

On Tuesday morning, Mali was lying on her side breathing heavily and died later in the afternoon, despite being given antihistamines and vitamins by veterinarians.

An autopsy revealed that she had a blockage in her aorta and cancer in some organs.

She lived a significantly shorter life than Asian elephants in the wild, whose average lifespan is 70 years, or other captive elephants that live until around 80, according to Discover Wildlife. 

The Smithsonian National Zoo said that evidence points to Asian elephants living until their mid-50s with the median lifespan clocking in at 47 years old.

She moved from Sri Lanka to the Manila Zoo after the Sri Lankan government gifted her to the then-first lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos.

Mali briefly shared her space with another elephant named Shiba, who died in 1990, but lived alone ever since Shiba passed.

PETA released a statement about the animal’s death on Wednesday. 

“We’re so sorry, Mali. You deserved better,” the animal rights group said in a Facebook post.

“Despite PETA’s repeated warnings, Manila Zoo & city officials ignored Mali’s clearly painful foot problems, the leading cause of death in captive elephants. Every person who denied her veterinary care & blocked her transfer to a sanctuary should be held accountable,” the statement continued.

“Thank you to everyone who rallied for her release, from Dr. Jane Goodall & Sir Paul McCartney to a host of Filipino stars and thousands of schoolchildren,” the statement concluded. 

Paul McCartney had advocated for Mali to be given better attention.

“I was shocked to learn that Mali has never even received proper preventive foot care,” he said in a 2013 letter to then-President of the Philippines Benigno Aquino III, Rappler reported.

“Foot and joint problems are the leading cause of death among captive elephants kept on hard surfaces and when this type of care is something that every reputable zoo in the world offers.”

He also wrote: “I am writing to add my voice to the many others who are supporting the transfer of Mali, the lonely elephant currently being held at the Manila Zoo, to a sanctuary in Thailand as soon as possible.”


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  Comments - 9

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  • Ron Thursday, 30 November 2023 09:16 AM

    It's animal cruelty there are some animals that need own pace to Roam should be released after few years to the wild and should have a roteting system in place compulsory it's sad no one have come out with a animal's welfare duty of care plan to protect animals from locking up for long period few years in the zoo then send back where they belong and came from...,

    melville perera Thursday, 30 November 2023 09:29 AM

    BORN FREE and such wild lives are not meant to be caged even for a day leave alone 33 years as this treatment is tantamount to incaseration Authorities should give this situation serious consideration under today's society changes. Wide screen TV is more suitable to show such creatures in their natural habitation instead of subjecting them to mental torture in cages. Time animal activists acted on this

    Banda Thursday, 30 November 2023 09:39 AM

    We Sri Lanka as a country of origin must have a mechanism to follow up their health ad well-being. Have we done that? No. Because we are still in history.

    M Fernando Thursday, 30 November 2023 11:50 AM

    Sri Lanka should not be making these stupid gifts to anyone

    WILD LIFE ENTHUSIAST - Life Member WLNPS Thursday, 30 November 2023 03:01 PM

    We should NOT export local wild animals EVEN AS GIFTS!

    WILD LIFE ENTHUSIAST - Life Member WLNPS Thursday, 30 November 2023 03:01 PM

    We should NOT export local wild animals EVEN AS GIFTS!

    WILD LIFE ENTHUSIAST - Life Member WLNPS Thursday, 30 November 2023 03:01 PM

    We should NOT export local wild animals EVEN AS GIFTS!

    WILD LIFE ENTHUSIAST - Life Member WLNPS Thursday, 30 November 2023 03:01 PM

    We should NOT export local wild animals EVEN AS GIFTS!

    Navi Thursday, 30 November 2023 08:35 PM

    SL should have called back or the phillipines should have sent it back. It is very inhuman to rare a a solitary elephant. there is no point shedding tears now. Both Governments have failed this majestic animal.


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