On Maali the Elephant: Deconstructing PETA’s Arguments, Piece by Piece

On Maali the Elephant: Deconstructing PETA's Arguments, Piece by Piece

On Maali the Elephant: Deconstructing PETA’s Arguments, Piece by Piece

Just a note: we have received a warning from Facebook that they want us to DELETE the post (see below) refuting the arguments of PETA because they claim it violates community standards. That is CENSORSHIP. The truth needs to be told, irrespective of whether or not PETA agrees with it. [Share this and help spread the truth!] They want to abuse us and say all kinds of things, but they are hurt when their arguments are refuted? NEVER!”

– The We Love Maali Facebook Page


DECONSTRUCTING PETA’S ARGUMENTS PIECE BY PIECE

1. 24/7 VETERINARY CARE IN BLES? Check your facts, Jana Sevilla!

Manila Zoo currently has 4 qualified veterinarians on site who can attend to the animals. They also have a medical clinic. BLES is currently soliciting for the construction of a medical clinic in their sanctuary, which they do not have in place. To quote their webpage, “Since BLES was established in 2007, the dire need for a vetinariany clinic [sic] has been paramount.” Elephant hospitals in northern Thailand are six-hour drives away from the sanctuary. Seedor Gam, a 40-year old bull, died last year in October 14, 2012 from an infection transmitted by horseflies. He had to be driven to Lampang elephant hospital, a considerable distance away. For any qualified vet, that is a textbook case to diagnose, treat and prevent! Seedor Gam did not need to die. Somsri, a 70-year old cow, died in March 2013 of this year after battling an infection. The Star Medical clinic is not yet finished. So how will Maali be treated if there is no clinic on site in the sanctuary? What about emergencies?

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2. WORLD-CLASS ELEPHANT EXPERTS IN YOUR CORNER? REALLY?

Dr. Mel Richardson, the veterinarian sent by PETA to examine Maali, has been censured by the Woodland Park Zoo for making recommendations on their elephants despite the fact that “He has had no contact with the veterinary
staff, elephant staff or the elephants in more than 20 years. He is not licensed to practice in Washington
state.” Does that sound like a world-class expert to you?

Dr. Mel Richardson is also part of the litigious group that LOST in the Canadian Supreme Court for filing a nuisance case against the Edmonton Zoo for not moving Lucy. Another veterinarian, Dr. James Osterhuis REJECTED the proposal because Lucy’s respiratory problems could have been exacerbated by the move, making it risky and potentially fatal. To quote CBC: “The Court of Queen’s Bench Justice John Rooke ruled that the legal proceeding amounted to an abuse of process.”

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3. REAL WORLD CLASS EXPERT SAID MAALI IS HEALTHY AND RECOMMENDED SHE STAYS!

Dr. Nikorn Thongtip is a member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the oldest and most prestigious conservation group in the world. He has published scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals and most importantly, belongs to a neutral party. He is an instructor in Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Kasetsart University. As a member of IUCN, his primary goal is conservation, especially of an endangered species such as Indian elephants. Knowing the dangers of a move, he recommended that Maali stays. He has also contradicted Dr. Richardson’s assertion and said she is healthy.

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4. PHASE-OUT OF ELEPHANT EXHIBITS ALL OVER THE WORLD FOR TRANSPORT TO SANCTUARIES ARE THE BEST THING FOR ELEPHANTS

No. Sanctuary does not automatically mean “better”. Dedicated individuals in Toronto have unearthed, through FOI requests, that Tuberculosis was a prevalent concern in the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary in California where their elephants are proposed to be sent. Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary, where PETA originally suggested Maali be transfered, has also had a TB outbreak.

Even if the sanctuary is disease-free, moving old elephants may not be the most human decision. Winky, a 52-year old elephant, had much difficulty adjusting after being moved to PAWS by the Detroit Zoo. She died the same year she was transferred. She also refused to get out of her truck

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5. ELEPHANTS ARE SOCIAL CREATURES AND NEED TO BE WITH THEIR OWN KIND

Maali is a Sri Lankan elephant which is an entirely different subspecies of Asian elephant from Thai elephants. When Maali first arrived in Manila Zoo, she encountered Jimbo (Thai bull) and Sheba (African cow). They did not get along and both elephants bullied her. Integrating into a matriarchal herd full of elephants that do not belong to her subspecies is an extremely difficult proposition.

Mayor Estrada’s suggestion of bringing two more Sri Lankan elephants to Manila Zoo are actually IN COMPLIANCE with Association of Zoos and Aquariums standards for elephant management and care. AZA requires that zoos hold at least three females, two males or three elephants of mixed gender. However, if Mayor Estrada also decides to keep Maali and Maali alone for humane reasons, this is also in compliance with recommendations by experts.

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6. MANILA ZOO IS NOT GOING TO CHANGE OR IMPROVE ITSELF TO PROVIDE BETTER CARE FOR MAALI

No. Concrete plans are being made to provide Maali with a better living arrangement within Manila Zoo, by improving her enclosure. Behavioral enrichment opportunities are also being studied and provided.

7. MAALI is going to Subic, for sure.

This is only a proposal and is not definitive! This is only a tentative proposal that is being entertained, but it is not a guarantee. All of the arguments against translocation apply, as well as Maali’s disposition. Also, if executed improperly, Maali can die in transport.

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Clarification Post

1. Position on Translocation of Captive Animals

In general, as a group, we are not opposed to the translocation of captive animals back into the wild. However, we believe that translocation should only be done if it is for the animal’s welfare, which should be assessed on a case-to-case basis. Broad sweeping generalizations help nobody, especially not animals who should be considered as individuals.

Although we would like to live in an idealistic world where all animals fare well after they are released or translocated, that is sadly not the case. In an article published in BioScience discussing the ethical issues surrounding the release of animals in captivity, the authors identified elements of what would be a “responsible release project” (Waples & Stagoll, 1997).

The first thing they emphasized is that RELEASE CANDIDATES SHOULD BE CAREFULLY SELECTED because not all individuals will have an equal capacity for survival. They state: “The reason to select appropriate release candidates has to do with the individuality of animals. The reasoning applied to the ethical consideration of individual animals on the one hand and groups of animals on the other is not strictly interchangeable. What, then, is the caretaker’s ethical responsibility to treat each animal as an individual with a unique history and circumstances? The answer to this question might help to determine whether some individual animals are good candidates for release, whereas others should not be released under any circumstances.”

Given Maali’s well-documented case of neophobia, experts have good reason to suspect that she will have immense difficulty adjusting to new circumstances. Manila Zoo is also doing the responsible and ETHICAL thing because they are the caretakers who have assessed Maali’s personality who have known her for many years.

Many people state that Manila Zoo is holding on to Maali for the money she generates, but that is a blatant lie. If money was the primary motivation for Manila Zoo’s actions, then they would have sold her to PETA years ago. Ironically, it is Manila Zoo and not PETA that is behaving ETHICALLY with respect to this situation!

Another important element of a responsible release project they identified is the SELECTION OF AN APPROPRIATE RELEASE SITE. To quote the article verbatim, “The preferable location would be one in which the animal was initially captured or, if it was born in captivity, where its closest relatives were captured. Releasing an animal into a historically unfamiliar area may reduce its chances of acceptance into the social group and its ability to cope with climactic conditions and local food resources.” PETA’s suggestion of releasing Maali to Thailand when she is a Sri Lankan native has all the makings of an IRRESPONSIBLE release project.

At the end of the day, all of the celebrities who have stripped and posed for PETA have signed their name to something that no reputable scientist or wildlife practitioner would ever endorse as ethical release. As people who are in the public eye who are meant to be exemplars, they should wield their fame responsibly and do their research before taking one organization’s word for the truth.

In closing, we believe in translocation but only if it satisfies the criteria of a responsible release project. Unfortunately, PETA’s proposal does not meet that criteria. So now we pose the question to all the famous people they gathered in their corner: did you do your due diligence?


PETA logo

Hey, PETA. In Filipino, ‘PERA’ means ‘MONEY’.

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