Why Maali Should Stay at The Manila Zoo

PETA does not even care enough to spell the elephant-they’re-using‘s name right! It’s “Maali,” with two A’s and not “Mali”. In Filipino, the word “mali” simply means “WRONG”. If PETA can’t get basic facts right, such as a name, then it has no business talking about Maali at all.

PETA resorts to publicity stunts (cheap and crude tactics, if you ask me) which in truth are manipulative, self-serving campaigns and outright lies to deceive the public. These “strategies” exploit human emotion in order to gain blind support and solicited funds that will never be used to actually help Maali. Has there been any published report to show where ALL the money given to PETA “for Maali” actually goes? If you were born yesterday, then you’re easily made into yet another pawn to help PETA squeeze support and more money from more people that it will likely just spend on itself, its people, and on yet more campaigns to keep the money coming in. It’s an organization that thrives on your “donations”.

If one were to have a bullshit translator, PETA’s campaign to “Save Maali” in truth would probably say something along the lines of, Give us your money (tax-free!) and help us get more people to give us money. We will spend it to keep our organization afloat and pay for more campaigns. None of it will ever actually be spent on Maali nor her needs. All your donations are belong to us.


TL;DR? Click an update below:


By Kathy Chua-Grimme

Three reasons why Maali should stay and if she’s forced to go, why they should start by helping here.

Why Maali Should Stay at The Manila Zoo

  1. Maali’s home is here, Maali’s heart is here.
    This is the only life Maali has ever known, and she’s surrounded by people who love her. With the right enrichment programs, it is possible to keep her happy in Manila Zoo. Moving her to a sanctuary will not guarantee her happiness. She was bullied by other elephants when she was younger and may still be bearing psychological scars from those encounters.

    While it is true that most elephants are herd animals, they can also form bonds with non-elephants. They’ve been known to also be attached to their mahoots (caregivers) and pine away when separated. Maali has formed very strong bonds here – and separating her from them can be devastating for her.

    Elephants have their own personalities, histories and quirks making them as diversely unique as people. She loves the interaction and socialization she gets from meeting zoo visitors – it has been an integral part of her life. Other animals have been “freed” and have died miserably because people refused to look at them as individuals and instead boxed them in with the stereotypes of their wild counterparts.

  2. She’s old and may not survive the move.
    Maali is 38 years old, the average lifespan of an Asian elephant in a zoo 41 years. In the twilight of her life, is it right to still rip her away from everything she knows and force her to undergo unfamiliar, uncertain and even frightening experiences?

    She hates trucks and would exhibit signs of stress each time she sees or hears one. The last time she traveled was over 30 years ago when she moved from the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka to the Manila Zoo. She was just a calf and was easily crated. Any move now will entail a long and arduous process which includes sedation, confinement and isolation.

    Most people die wishing to be surrounded by their loved ones – why should it be any different for her?

  3. Extraditing her to an executioner.
    The Thai elephant importations are stringent for a very good reason. They are trying to protect their endemic herds of elephants. If what the activists claims are true – that Maali is sick – then she’ll never pass the quarantine requirements and she will be destroyed (killed). They know this because they also have a copy of the quarantine requirements. (PETA) An organization that is known for having absolutely no qualms about euthanizing perfectly healthy dogs and cats will most likely have the same regard for an aging, ailing elephant.

    Even if Maali wasn’t sick, the regulations stipulate that the elephant being imported should not come from a country that has rampant cases of rabies, tuberculosis, and other such diseases. Sadly, the Philippines has its fair share of these illnesses.

    The organization behind her move has repeatedly expressed that they will shoulder all costs to transfer her there, but will they transfer her back if she fails the quarantine requirements?

Back Stories

There are many back stories behind this bid to move Maali to a “sanctuary” in Thailand. One of them is the closure of Manila Zoo. Sitting on prime property – I’m sure this 5.5 hectare plot of land has caught the eye of many real estate developers. This interest group paired with a left-wing animal rights group means that the zoo’s future may be in great peril.

The proponent of this move is a staunch advocate of euthanizing surplus and rescued animals as well as closing zoos around the world. They seem to think that if they take Maali away, the zoo will be easy to close. It’s no secret that they’d rather see an animal dead than in captivity, even when it is completely possible to make animals content through good environmental and behavioral enrichment programs.

Manila Zoo is not really a zoo in a sense that zoos acquire new animals for display and charge exorbitant entrance fees for its upkeep and improvement. With exception of the two oldest residents at the zoo, every single animal there is a rescued animal. Many of them have been donated by people who have grown tired of them, the more exotic ones usually have pending court cases. It’s a sanctuary for animals who would have otherwise had no place or chance of survival in the wild.

The zoo is subsidized by the City Government so that we too would have a lush haven in this concrete jungle called Manila. It is one of our last remaining parks – and is a important educational center, especially for underprivileged families. Will we resign our children to growing up in malls because we’ve let foreign and commercial organizations take away our parks? Where will the rescued animals go if Manila Zoo closes?

Why Maali Should Stay at The Manila Zoo

The “sanctuary” they propose to move her to runs on donations and ticket sales. It’s not even a government-accredited sanctuary. Hard-pressed for funds, they find themselves soliciting for medicines and funds. Why move her to a place where her future may be uncertain?

The organization gathering support for her move, collects signatures mostly from people who have never met her. And the few who have, spend a few minutes trying to capture an image that will support a preconceived judgment of her life. They’ve already made up their minds before meeting her – where’s the fairness in that?

If organizations are lobbying to move her to where they think her life may be better, why not start by making her life better here? They can use some of the funds they’ve raised to help with her enrichment programs and training. If the move is inevitable, then helping her here and now with those two programs will allow her to better transition to the proposed location. Help the zoo fix her enclosure so it’s as close to the feel of sanctuary as possible.

It took us three months to introduce the newly renovated section to her. She’ll need time to get used to the feel of soil on her feet, and whatever else she might encounter in the sanctuary. Start now at the zoo so she can get introduced gently, and still be comforted by what is familiar.

Why Maali Should Stay at The Manila Zoo

Encouraging Maali to take first steps into her new enclosure.

The organization should also help with making sure she’ll pass all the necessary health requirements. They’ll need specific data covering a period of at least two years. Let’s not do short cuts that might jeopardize her life. Have a clear plan laid out in the event that she fails quarantine.

The organization behind all this will make her their martyr whether she lives or dies. Maali deserves more than just to be a group’s publicity stunt. Before jumping on the bandwagon, please take the time to get to know her. Not everything written in a press-release is true, especially when its by a group that couldn’t be bothered to spend more than an hour with her before calling up a newspaper to run their story.

Freeing Maali sounds good on paper. The scariest thing in this entire controversy is exactly that some groups are more concerned about press and publicity than they actually are about Maali’s welfare. To them, moving her may be a great achievement – but hopefully not at the expense of her happiness or her life.


Related Links:


Updates / More related links:

Why Maali Should Stay at The Manila Zoo

“Doesn’t come in as a surprise tactic… That’s their way of life.” – John Chua

Why Maali Should Stay at The Manila Zoo

Latest publicity stunt / circus act: The “lonely and suffering” naked models of PETA. The money wasted on this could have instead been used more productively and pro-actively – such as towards the improvement of Maali’s current living conditions.


Because of what PETA has been doing lately, international animal welfare groups are now curious and want to find out the Truth:

Why Maali Should Stay at The Manila Zoo

Knowledge is power in this Internet Age. Before joining PETA’s Circus, please read this:

[EXCERPT] Well-meaning but misinformed people think animals in the wild are “happy” because they are “free”. These people usually have a large, handsome predator in mind… The life of the wild animal is simple, noble and meaningful, they imagine. Then it is captured by wicked men and thrown into tiny jails. Its “happiness” is dashed. It yearns mightily for “freedom” and does all it can to escape. Being denied its “freedom” for too long, the animal becomes a shadow of itself, its spirit broken. So some people imagine.

This is not the way it is.

Continue reading here, or see the original post: “Animals in captivity” Life of Pi – Yann Martel.


Eat this, PETA!

Based on experience with previous elephant transfers, it is most likely that PETA’s misguided advocacy to send Maali to the sanctuary in Thailand will trigger a lengthy adjustment period and cause her to suffer absolute social isolation.

“Maali dying in full grief is highly likely in Thailand.”

Why Maali Should Stay at The Manila Zoo

26 thoughts on “Why Maali Should Stay at The Manila Zoo

  1. It would’nt take a genius to figure out the poor elephant is suffering and looks miserable in any photo I have seen. This poor animal should be freed from this zoo and be able to live out her final days in freedom..

    • Perhaps all the photos you have seen are those provided by PETA to support their fund-raising. Those photos are either old or have been altered in order to exaggerate the less desirable aspects in Maali’s life. Those photos never show you the entire, bigger picture. One-sided journalism is an oxymoron. Do not arrive at a conclusion that is based on half-truths (which are just as bad as lies and can be even worse). I have been to the Manila Zoo and I have weighed-in on the issue, as presented by BOTH sides. Have you? Please do not be misled by seeing only one, prejudiced side of the story. Yours seems to be a classic example of a preconceived judgment of Maali.

  2. we are the only animals on earth who enjoys seeing non-human animals in tight enclosure to ENTERTAIN ourselves.
    where is compassion in that? that is SLAVERY.
    is slaving another animal for PROFIT and entertainment LOVE???
    we think that just because we feed them some scraps we can own them. nobody can claim ownership to these non-human animals. they have the same right to be free.
    and it is hard to believe that at this point in time, there are still (supposedly educated) people advocating for ZOOS!!! that is just so backwards and unkind.
    again where is our compassion and connectedness to these beings – our brothers and sisters on this planet?

    • You are generalizing. Are you aware of the key details/points of Maali’s case? Did you even read this article? Please read this, too: http://wp.me/p2sQig-5x

      You are very welcome to visit the Manila Zoo and get to know Maali. Be “educated” about her whole story. PETA’s propaganda is funded by corporations with their own agendas/gain in mind. Do you really want to remove the poor old elephant from the zoo at the expense of her life? The issue of Maali is simply a tool for these corporations to get what they want. Don’t be misled.

      I support environmentalism and animal rights, but this is mostly a political and fund-raising issue for those who want Maali out of the Manila Zoo. NONE of the funds they have raised in their entire international and corporate-funded campaign has ever been spent to care for Maali.

      I am against cruelty to animals. Maali is far from being subject to it. Your efforts and zeal would serve better by hounding people who keep dogs in cages (so many Filipinos are very guilty of this) instead of standing against the people who take care of Maali as best they can. Stand with us! 🙂

      Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

  3. Maali was from the wild but was caught and kept in captivity, which was both sad and wrong. But being in captivity for a long time, especially now at her age, she wont be able to survive in the wild anymore. it would be more wrong to “free” her now. what would be better is giving Maali the environment, food and medicine that will help keep her safe and stable. it is like the story of a bird that has been in a cage for so long, and one time, even when the cage door was left open, the bird still stayed inside. if Maali has been treated with kindness and given the proper care and nourishment, then it is likely that Maali considers the zoo as her home.

  4. Great post! Thanks for sharing. I agree that Maali’s well-being should be the #1 priority… not political / institutional interests. Unfortunately we can’t know for sure what “happiness” means for an animal and Maali can’t tell us herself. But I do think the best people who can make a guess about it would be those who care for her deeply and have spent a lot of time bonding with her. Not the PETA activists.

  5. I don’t see anything wrong with Zoo and sanctuaries. How sure are you that she can fend for herself in an sanctuary. To where, across the sea? Another country? That’s adding more stress on Maali. Moving her would cause stress on the elephant. She might be dead halfway to the targeted sanctuary. From the photos I’ve seen, she looked like she was being taken care of properly, by Manila Zoo.

    For me that is enough. Make her comfortable to live in an environment that she is accustomed to it. And taking care of an elephant is no joke.

    A good example, in Florida, Big Cat Rescue (it’s good organization!), it’s a sanctuary and retirement home for wild cats that are either abandoned, abused, or retired from the circus. They do have paid tours, educational tours.

    But they were criticized by so called animal activists. *roll eyes*
    Come on, how can you feed, give medicines to over 100++ wild cats?

    I never believe in PETA actually. =/

    I should visit her one day in Manila zoo. I should make time for it. 🙂

  6. Thank you, E.J. for a very well written defense of Maali. I hope that what you wrote would lead people to come to Manila Zoo and really meet Maali. And John, of course.

    • We do what we can, when we can – unlike other individuals and organizations whose specific purpose is to grossly misinform the public with half-truths and manipulated facts and to gather/raise funds allegedly for Maali’s welfare when absolutely NONE of the said funds are actually spent on Maali.

      I merely compiled relevant info and articles/links at the time. I’m glad some people have somehow found this online. Updated info is due.

    • Hi Mom! Actually, I wrote that. Ej just keeps it better organized. Glad you like it.

      • There’s a lot of new stuff, recent updates, and links about Maali (It’s not Mali, PETA! “Mali” is WRONG!) that I feel I could/should add to here, too.

    • I believe in the side that has actually been caring for Maali on a daily basis, not in the side that has been raising funds to only fuel itself, manipulating and misleading the public, silently backed by corporations with real-estate oriented objectives, and using misinformed celebrities to further their media circus, and all the while never spending a single cent for actual care for Maali.

      • E.J You can not be serious I am from Zimbabwe and grew up with elephants and everything you say about her well being in captivity in a confined zoo environment is not the life for this magnificent Social intelligent and sensitive animal .The other scenario you in a cage for 30 years devoid of human contact just elephants come to stare at you ,your eyes look out wishing even after 30 years they would understand you .
        There is no justification my friend none whatsoever.
        Next time you see her ask her and tell me of this gift you have then look in your soul .
        Mario P

  7. Transporting elephants is a common practice, and it is done without causing significant stress to the animal. Canada’s Toronto Zoo transferred three African elephants—Iringa (42 years old), Toka (41 years old), and Thika (31 years old)— to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary in the United States successfully.

    Experts have already documented that Maali’s health is at risk and that she’s in pain. The zoo veterinarians lack expertise in caring for elephants and have failed to address Maali’s health problems. Many international elephant and wildlife experts are confident that Maali will cope very well in her new environment and that transferring her would be the right thing to do for her welfare. A sanctuary will offer Maali acres to roam and explore, ponds to bathe in, fresh vegetation to eat, foraging opportunities, and, most importantly, the company of other elephants—all while under 24-hour supervision by elephant experts. Even though Maali is considered to be an aged captive elephant, Asian elephants in the wild can live up to 70 years, not 42 to 45 years, as the zoo claims.

    It’s self-serving to claim that Maali prefers human company over that of others who look like her, smell like her, and understand her vocalizations and body language. Housing an elephant alone is unanimously condemned by experts worldwide, and no zoo association approves of keeping a female elephant by herself. Sanctuaries routinely introduce elephants—many of whom have spent decades alone—to new herds with great success.

    Maali’s cramped pen means that she is unable to move around much and is left to stand for long hours on concrete. This takes a toll on her feet, legs, and joints. A controlled foot-care program that includes monitoring the thickness of her food pads, trimming her nails and cuticles, and filing her nails is a fundamental requirement for captive elephants. In her entire life at the Manila Zoo, Maali has never received proper foot care. Simply cleaning and disinfecting her enclosure—even if it is done daily—will not prevent infection or problems. Allowing Maali to walk on diverse terrain and natural substrate, not concrete, will improve the health of her feet and joints.

    After being taken away from her mother and herd, Maali has given most of her life to be an attraction for people; its not right. She deserves to live a proper life of an elephant, not as entertainment for humans.

  8. Recently a male elephant was removed from its owner, who was unaware! He had chains around his legs for 50yrs! He was not in good health and is being treated! He was poached as a baby! He was introduced to 2 females who greeted him and touched him with their trunks! He was doing fine! So what would be the difference here?

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