Internationally recognized elephant expert Dr. Henry Richardson has sent an urgent letter to Manila Zoo veterinarian Dr. Donald C. Manalastas calling on him to take action in response to the worsening condition of Mali—a 38-year-old Asian elephant suffering from foot ailments, the leading cause of death in captive elephants—and to transfer her to a sanctuary in Thailand. In his report, Richardson says that since his initial examination of Mali in May, her condition has worsened.
“Over the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to review many recent videos of Mali at length. I noticed that she is more overweight now than when I visited in May. Her obesity is compounding the severity of the arthritis and foot disease that she appears to be suffering from,” says Richardson, who has more than 40 years of experience working with elephants, has written expert reports on captive elephants for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and has been invited to work in wildlife and captive-animal rehabilitation projects in Bolivia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and elsewhere. “Mali favors or removes the weight from primarily her left forelimb, regularly when standing in one place. Occasionally she does favor the right as well, alternating with the left. I am absolutely certain Mali has pain in her front limbs and feet. Elephants carry the majority of their weight on their front legs and so it is expected that elephants living in ill-conceived, unimaginative, and abusive environments like Mali’s at the Manila Zoo would suffer the most in their front end.”
“To put it simply: Mali may die from the lack of care she is receiving if left at the zoo. … All of the information that I am receiving forces me to draw the conclusion that the management of the zoo and the politicians of Manila and/or the Philippines are more interested in keeping Mali in the Philippines no matter how much she suffers, even if it kills her.”
“I can state that if Mali is left at the Manila Zoo that she will continue to physically suffer and be lonely with 100% certainty. And sentencing an elephant to live alone is the cruelest abuse of all,” adds Richardson. “In my experience, when elephants like Mali stop lying down to rest and start leaning against walls, it is only a matter of time before she lies down or falls down and is unable to get back up. I fear this is the fate for Mali if she is not moved to [a] sanctuary soon.”
Dr. Richardson’s full report can be viewed here.
Posted by Ashley Fruno