Mayor Estrada open to moving Mali to Subic but …

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The elephant Mali may be kept outside Manila Zoo—but only while the place that has been her home for the last three decades is undergoing renovation.

After receiving an offer from an animal theme parks operator to take care of Mali in a forested area in Subic, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said he would allow the elephant’s transfer there but only while the city zoo is being modernized.

“We will construct a world-class Manila Zoo. So while it’s being constructed, we might ship (Mali) to Subic,” Estrada said, stressing that the setup would be temporary. “We will not let go of Mali.”

The mayor and former President earlier announced that investors from Singapore have made a P2-billion investment offer to modernize the 54-year-old zoo, which currently houses around 700 animals from 104 species.

Albert Yupangco, president of Zoomanity Group of the Yupangco Group of Companies, which operates three theme parks in Luzon, wrote Estrada last week with an offer to take care of Mali in the 50-hectare Zoobic Safari in Subic.

The businessman also said the Manila city government could have an annual share of P10 million to P20 million from the proceeds once Mali becomes an attraction at his theme park.

But the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), an animal rights group campaigning for Mali’s transfer to a nature sanctuary in Thailand, noted that while Zoobic Safari is bigger than Manila Zoo, it still offers a smaller space compared to the 200-hectare haven in Thailand.

“Mali has been alone for over three decades, and she is undeniably lonely. Continuing to deprive her of the socialization with others of her own kind which is so fundamental to her well-being amounts to mental abuse,” Peta campaigns manager Rochelle Regodon said.

She added that moving Mali to Zoobic and then back to Manila Zoo meant that she would have to adjust to a new environment twice.

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