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Workers, volunteers cheer up Mali as zoo remains shut

/ 05:14 AM February 01, 2019
Workers, volunteers cheer up Mali as zoo remains shut

FEEDING TIME Breakfast is a tall pile of grass for Manila Zoo’s most popular resident, Mali. There are over 600 other animals in the zoo but Mali is the only elephant. —EDWIN BACASMAS

Every now and then, workers and volunteers at the shuttered Manila Zoo carry out a “special operation” that has nothing to do with its ongoing rehabilitation.

They have one goal: Keep the zoo’s most famous resident, Mali the elephant, happy.

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Since Jan. 23, the zoo has been closed to all visitors after Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada ordered it shut indefinitely to allow the installation of wastewater treatment facilities.

This was after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources tagged the attraction as a major polluter of Manila Bay.

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Daily treat

At least once a day, zoo workers and volunteers gather around Mali’s enclosure and pretend to be visitors, fussing over her and taking pictures.

The elephant’s caretaker, Boy Tabiong, said that many of them visit Mali during her feeding time in the morning.

“We are afraid she might realize the zoo has closed and she might get lonely,” said Jassyr Garcia, the officer in charge of Manila’s Public Recreations Bureau.

According to her, the elephant – Manila Zoo’s top crowd drawer—loves it when she has visitors, adding, “Mali is happy when she sees zoo goers at her pen.”

Manila Zoo has 640 animals that belong to 200 different species. Only Mali, however, is getting this special attention from zoo workers.

“Elephants love company. They even travel in herds,” Garcia said.

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Petition for transfer

A gift from Sri Lanka, Mali has been living in the zoo for over 40 years. She has been the subject of an online petition asking zoo officials to send her to an elephant sanctuary in Thailand where she will be in the company of other elephants.

Even world-renowned animal conservationist Jane Goodall asked former President Benigno Aquino III in 2012 to transfer Mali to a wildlife sanctuary.

But an animal training expert who examined Mali has warned against the move, saying that the long, stressful plane ride and mandatory quarantine period might not be good for her health at her age.

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TAGS: Mali, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, Manila Zoo, shut
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