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MANILA, Philippiens - The environmental protection group Pilipinas Ecowarriors has joined the clamor for the relocation of Mali, the Manila Zoo’s lone elephant, to a natural shelter in Thailand.
“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,” said former Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, Pilipinas Ecowarriors convenor, in a press statement.
“Mali deserves a safe haven where she can be in a natural environment, hopefully with other elephants,” added Zubiri, former chairman of the Senate environment and natural resources committee.
Assuming Thailand agrees to take Mali in, Zubiri said a possible relocation site for her might be The Thai Elephant Conservation Center near the city of Chiang Mai.
With the financial backing of no less than the King of Thailand, Zubiri said the 20-year-old center looks after more than 50 Asian elephants in a forest setting.
Known for its ground-breaking work in conservation, he said the center houses six of King Bhumibol's 10 white elephants in the Royal Elephant Stables, and the National Elephant Institute of Thailand.
Thailand is home to more than 2,700 domesticated elephants.
Zubiri’s Pilipinas Ecowarriors is a non-profit, registered non-governmental group that keeps watch over potential violators of environmental protection and conservation laws.
Gifted by the Sri Lankan government to the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Mali has been restricted to the Manila Zoo for 35 years.
On orders from Malacañang, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) and the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) are now evaluating the plea of animal welfare groups to transfer Mali to a refuge in Thailand.
The authorities are now trying to ascertain if Mali is in shape to make the trip, and looking into Thailand’s quarantine protocols.
Mali was previously diagnosed with potentially fatal foot conditions.
Last week, members of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) delivered a petition to the BAI pushing for the elephant’s transfer to Thailand.