In an interview aired on GMA News TV’s “News To Go” on Friday, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said the two elephants will be coming from Sri Lanka.
“Merong mag-iinvest dito nang… made-develop ‘yung ating Manila Zoo to world-class,” said Estrada. “Tamang-tama ito, public participation. Sila ang gagastos lahat, pero sa kita, may kikitain pa rin ang gobyerno.”
Dr. Donald Manalastas, Manila Zoo’s resident zoologist, said they are open to the city government’s plan.
“Of course that will be a good addition, pero gusto po namin na kung magdadagdag po kami ay sigurado na po lahat,” he said in the same report
The city government’s move is just part of a series of small improvements that aim to modernize Manila Zoo, the report said.
It also said that other than improving Mali’s quarter-of-an-acre-sized living space, an international veterinarian will also be sent to examine her.
If the plan to add two more elephants pushes through, the next step would be to determine whether or not Mali, which has never seen other elephants in 33 years, will get along with them.
If not, the report said, the two additional elephants will be temporarily placed inside a vacant horsepen.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which first called for Mali’s release into the wild amid a worsening foot ailment and alleged lack of care, is opposing the city government’s plan.
“For 36 years, na neglect ng Manila Zoo si Mali,” said Jana Sevilla, PETA’s campaign coordinator, in the same report. “Hindi sila dapat nire-rewardan nang dalawa pang bagong elepante.”
“Study after shows na talaga walang kahit gaano kayaman, gaano ka-well-funded na zoo ang makakapagsaya sa elepante,” she added.
Last year, PETA and Manalastas had a fierce debate as to Mali’s condition in her pen.
Manalastas argued that Mali would not be able to survive the trip and that it might not be able to assimilate with its own kind while PETA held that the animal will be placed in a state-of-the-art cage. The group also said animals in captivity retain their instincts even after having been so long away from their natural habitat.
PETA said Mali would start out fully supervised in a five-acre pen and move on to 500 acres once she’s ready to socialize.
“By plane, that’s the fastest way,” said Sevilla on transporting the elephant. “Tsaka yung mga sinasabi na isi-sedate si Mali, that’s not true. Isu-supervise din siya ng mga experts.”
The debate rages to this day. Even the zoogoers are divided as to what to do with Mali.
Last January, a panel at the House of Representatives gave Mali’s transfer the go-signal, but the zookeepers and the local government were adamant.
In April, Malacañang said it was waiting for the Department of Agriculture’s recommendation regarding Mali’s transfer.
Among the local and foreign personalities who called for Mali’s transfer were local celebrities Marian Rivera and Dingdong Dantes, as well as British-born folk rock singer Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens), former Playboy model Pamela Anderson, and, very recently, former Beatles member and music icon Paul McCartney. — Vida Cruz/KBK, GMA News