Looks like a third party wants a piece of Mali.
An operator of animal theme parks in Luzon has asked Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada to allow his company to take care of Mali, the lone elephant at Manila Zoo, saying it could provide a more suitable habitat for the aging animal.
The request came from the Zoomanity Group (ZG), a part of the Yupangco Group of Companies that operates the Zoocobia Fun Zoo at Clark Freeport, the Zoobic Safari in Subic, Zambales province, and the Paradizoo Theme Farm in Cavite province.
In his July 23 letter, ZG president Albert Yupangco asked Estrada to let his company transfer Mali to the 50-hectare animal theme park in the Subic Bay Freeport.
Yupangco cited the campaign of animal rights activists to have Mali transferred to a nature sanctuary in Thailand. “However, there are some misgivings whether Mali can withstand the strenuous travel to Thailand, in view of her physical condition and old age,” he said.
The businessman also assured the Manila city government of a P10-million to P20-million income per year from the 500,000 or more annual visitors at Zoobic Safari who pay to enter the theme park.
Estrada could not be immediately reached for comment on Saturday, but one of his media officers, Ike Gutierrez, pointed out that the mayor and former President had made his position clear on the issue.
“He has stated that Mali will stay in Manila Zoo and two more elephants will be donated shortly by Sri Lanka,” Gutierrez told the Inquirer. The animal was a gift given by Sri Lanka in the 1970s to then First Lady Imelda Marcos.
In a message during the zoo’s 54th anniversary celebration last week, Estrada said he “will not let Mali leave the place she grew up in” and that he was in talks with investors from Singapore who were planning to infuse P2 billion to modernize the zoo.
According to Yupangco, veterinarians and animal-care experts from his company can take good care of Mali. “(She) will be placed in a vast forest which simulates her natural habitat. We are planning to acquire additional elephants to keep Mali company, thus addressing the loneliness issue.”
Yupangco said keeping Mali in a more suitable environment within the Philippines would not deprive Filipinos of the chance to see the elephant.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) has been campaigning to free the “lonely” 39-year-old Mali from what it considered to be cramped conditions at the zoo. Among the latest celebrity endorsers of the campaign was British music legend Paul McCartney, who wrote to President Aquino asking him to give Mali “a well-deserved retirement.”