Campaigners step up 'deportation' bid for Mali, the 'world's loneliest elephant'

Chris Parsons
Yahoo! News UK

She's the only creature of her kind most Filipinos ever see, and for most of her lonesome existence Mali the elephant has barely seen any of her own kind either.

So it's no wonder Mali is known by many as 'the loneliest elephant in the world'.

Now campaigners have stepped up demands for Mali to be 'deported' from Manila Zoo, so she can live with 50 other elephants in a Thai conservation forest.

Environment groups, animal rights campaigners and celebrities including Brigitte Bardot and Morrissey are all clamouring for the lonely elephant to be extradited from her single existence.

Now it has been proposed the lonely lady be sent to The Thai Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang province, to be with an estimated 50 elephants in a forest setting.

Efforts to 'deport' Mali have increased in recent weeks as more groups have joined the campaign, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Former Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, the convenor of Pilipinas Ecowarriors, said in a statement: "Assuming Mali is fit to make the trip to Thailand, she would be better off in a designated sanctuary, rather than kept in a zoo here."

Mali, now aged 35, came to the Philippines in 1977 as a gift to then-president Ferdinand Marcos by Sri Lanka.

But environmental groups say Mali is too lonely in Manila.

There are also widespread concerns for her health as she has lived for the over 30 years in a restricted concrete pen, which has damaged her skin and feet.

PETA campaigners say veterinarians in Manila also lack the expertise to properly care for her.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino personally entered the debate last week. He issued orders to the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau and the Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Animal Industry to see if Mali could even travel.

The groups have begun asking about animal quarantine in Thailand, and whether Mali could even make the trip.

Media reports said the elephant has been diagnosed with potentially fatal foot conditions.

A spokesman for PETA in London said: "PETA Asia has been campaigning for an end to Mali's suffering, but has been met with resistance at every step of the way.

"After receiving a letter from famed musician Morrissey, Philippines President Benigno Aquino III issued a directive stating that Mali's health should be evaluated and she should be considered for transfer to a sanctuary.

"Following this ground-breaking directive, PETA Asia flew in elephant expert Dr Henry Melvyn Richardson to examine Mali.

"Dr Richardson's report indicates that Mali's confinement to a concrete enclosure has led to severe foot problems - the leading cause of death among captive elephants.

"Not only is Mali's physical health at risk if she continues to stay at an institution that lacks the resources and knowledge to care for her properly but her isolation from other elephants is causing her intense mental suffering.

"In the months since the directive, PETA Asia has been campaigning on every level to secure Mali's freedom."