The World Mourns the ‘Saddest Elephant in the World

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The elephant Mali, nearly 50 years old and the last remaining pachyderm in the Philippines, passed away due to various ailments after spending over four decades in the Manila Zoo. Mali was gifted to the then-first lady Imelda Marcos by Sri Lanka.

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Manila Mayor Honey Lacuna announced in a press conference that Mali, also known as Vishwamali, passed away on Tuesday afternoon. Lacuna added that the pachyderm had been a source of joy for children and adults for decades.

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During the press conference, Manila Zoo’s chief veterinarian, Heinrich Patrick Peña-Domingo, mentioned that Mali had cancer, along with issues in various organs such as the liver and kidneys. It is believed that she died of a heart attack.

For years, activists like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had been denouncing the loneliness and poor conditions in which the elephant lived, advocating for her transfer to an elephant sanctuary in Thailand.

“The world mourns Mali, the elephant who spent decades alone in the Manila Zoo,” PETA wrote on its X account (formerly Twitter), urging Sri Lanka not to send another elephant to Manila if requested by the authorities.

The elephant was gifted to the Manila Zoo in 1977, at the age of three, by Sri Lankan authorities as a gesture to then-first lady Imelda Marcos, the wife of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Initially, there was another elephant in the zoo, Shiba, but she passed away a few years later, leaving Mali alone for the following decades.

Over ten years ago, PETA initiated a campaign for Mali to be transferred to an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, a plea supported by personalities such as Paul McCartney, Pamela Anderson, Morrissey, J.M. Coetzee, and Dr. Jane Goodall.

According to PETA, Mali lived in a small space with a concrete floor, whereas elephants are accustomed to living in areas ranging from 25,000 to 60,000 hectares. However, Filipino authorities consistently argued that the elephant was being cared for lovingly in the zoo and wouldn’t adapt well to living with other pachyderms.

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