Remembering Mali: The Elephant Whose Tale Echoes Beyond Manila Zoo’s Walls

 Remembering Mali: The Elephant Whose Tale Echoes Beyond Manila Zoo’s Walls

Tragic news shook the global community as Vishwamali, affectionately known as Mali, the elephant described by PETA as the “saddest” in the world, has passed away. Mali succumbed to congestive heart failure on November 28 at Manila Zoo, Philippines, marking the end of a life that had sparked widespread advocacy for her welfare.

Believed to be in her late forties, Mali’s demise was announced through a poignant Facebook video by Manila Mayor Honey Lacuna. The announcement not only marked Mali’s departure but also stirred memories for Lacuna, who recalled joyful childhood visits to see the elephant at the zoo.

Across social media platforms, an outpouring of grief ensued. Mali’s plight had garnered attention from notable figures like Dr. Jane Goodall and Paul McCartney, who pleaded with authorities to relocate her to an elephant sanctuary while she was still alive.

Mali’s life was marked by solitude. Having lived mostly alone in her enclosure since her arrival in 1981, her story resonated as a testament to the challenges faced by captive animals. The BBC reported that Mali’s distress surfaced last Friday, evident as she rubbed her trunk against a wall—a telltale sign of pain, as described by chief veterinarian Dr. Heinrich Patrick Peña-Domingo. Despite veterinary efforts, Mali’s condition deteriorated, leading to her passing on Tuesday afternoon.

An autopsy unveiled critical health issues, including a blockage in her aorta and cancer in some organs. Her significantly shortened life, contrasting with the longer lifespans observed in both wild and captive Asian elephants, highlights the adversity she faced. Discover Wildlife notes that Asian elephants typically live up to 70 years in the wild and around 80 in captivity, whereas Mali’s life ended prematurely.

Mali’s journey to the Manila Zoo began when she was gifted by the Sri Lankan government to Imelda Marcos, the then-first lady of the Philippines. Though briefly sharing space with another elephant named Shiba, who passed away in 1990, Mali spent the rest of her years in solitary confinement.

Following Mali’s death, PETA, in a heartfelt Facebook post, expressed deep regret, emphasizing Mali’s deserved better treatment. The animal rights group criticized Manila Zoo and city officials for overlooking Mali’s painful foot problems, a leading cause of death in captive elephants, and urged accountability for denying her adequate veterinary care and obstructing her transfer to a sanctuary.

Mayumi Guelas

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