World-Renowned Elephant Veterinarian: Mali Is Suffering

Posted on by Ashley Fruno

Mali the elephant at the Manila ZooFollowing a directive from President Benigno Aquino III to evaluate Mali, the 38-year-old solitary elephant at the Manila Zoo, and move her to a sanctuary, a new medical report on her condition reveals that she is suffering from potentially fatal foot problems and profound loneliness and that the only way to ensure her physical and psychological well-being is to relocate her to an elephant sanctuary, where she can be cared for by experts. Paid for by PETA, internationally recognized elephant expert Dr. Mel Richardson has just published his report from a visual medical examination of Mali. View the report here.

No Veterinary Care

In the report, Richardson cites chronic pressure sores open to contamination as well as foot ailments, including cracked nails, overgrown cuticles, and cracked pads—all three of which can harbor bacteria and become infected. Such foot problems are the leading cause of death in captive elephants. The zoo’s veterinarians admitted to Richardson that they lack the means to trim Mali’s cuticles, and they have not yet accepted PETA’s offer of assistance. Richardson’s examination is the most complete physical evaluation that Mali has ever received, but she has still not had a blood workup.

Mali's feet, Manila Zoo

Suffering and Alone

While Richardson is concerned about Mali’s lack of veterinary care, he is particularly troubled by her loneliness and the extreme psychological stress that it causes:

“My major concern is that Mali is alone,” writes Richardson in the report. “Female elephants in their natural habitat never leave the herd. They are in constant communication with the other members of their family. Mali’s social and psychological needs are being neglected at the Manila Zoo. Even the best intentions … cannot replace these needs, which can only be met by the companionship of other elephants.” He concludes, “In my experience, even elephants who have been alone for more than 20 years integrate well with other elephants when moved to a sanctuary.”

All elephants who are confined alone and denied everything that is natural and important to them suffer psychologically. The frustrations of captivity and lack of companionship often lead to abnormal, neurotic, and even self-destructive behavior called “zoochosis” or “stereotypy”—in Mali’s case, incessant pacing. A growing number of progressive zoos—including several in the U.S. and the U.K.—have realized that they cannot possibly fulfill the complex needs of elephants and have closed their elephant exhibits. The government of India has ordered that all elephants in zoos be transferred to government-run sanctuaries and reserves.

What You Can Do to Help

Please support PETA’s campaign to transfer Mali to a sanctuary. Click here for a list of ideas on how to help Mali get the retirement that she deserves.

Posted by Ashley Fruno