Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada on Monday said he is eyeing a bigger and more improved pen for Mali, a female elephant and Manila Zoo’s most popular resident.
Estrada said it would be better for Mali’s physical well-being if she had a more comfortable place to walk around and rest compared to her concrete and barren pen inside the animal park.
“We’ve been continuously looking for ways to uplift the welfare of the zoo’s animals, especially Mali. This time, we’re looking to improve Mali’s home,” Estrada said.
Mali was a gift from the government of Sri Lanka to then first lady Imelda Marcos. The elephant came to the country in 1977 and has been residing in the zoo since.
Estrada had earlier said the city government was fast tracking the planned renovation of Manila Zoo that will make it a “world-class” facility with more attractions and animals to see.
The priority of the project, he stressed, is to build better and bigger enclosures for the animals.
Along with the infrastructure upgrades, the project also entails the addition of new species of animals and the construction of a separate breeding and resting park for the zoo animals.
The Manila Parks and Recreations Bureau that has direct control over the zoo said it is proposing to Estrada that Mali’s pen be converted to a forest-like environment with grass instead of a concrete floor, and complete with a waterhole and enough vegetation.
The soft ground and grass, MPRB director James Albert Dichaves said, is fit for active animals like Mali.
“Let’s fix the cage of Mali so that this would be fitted to her needs,” Dichaves explained.
“The concrete flooring of her cage must be redone as grass. Because a cemented pavement is bad for Mali’s health,” said Dichaves.
Contrary to the allegations of animal rights advocates, Dichaves clarified that Mali has since been in good shape and receives adequate care.
Her cracked nails and foot pads have already been treated a long time ago.
In fact, he said internationally-recognized veterinarians commissioned by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources have recently visited the elephant and affirmed that the animal is doing just fine.
“Her feet are okay now. And she’s well taken care of,” Dichaves said.
Dichaves even dared animal welfare activists to come and check on Mali: “They’re welcome to come here anytime to prove that Mali is actually doing OK.”