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Manila Zoo Considers Preserving Mali, the Iconic Elephant, After Her Passing

The Manila city government is considering preserving Mali, the Manila Zoo’s only elephant, following her passing on November 28.

Mayor Honey Lacuna suggested the possibility of taxidermy to conserve Mali’s body, proposing that she could be displayed in a museum. “Mali is a cherished part of our history. She was a star attraction at Manila Zoo,” Mayor Lacuna expressed in a press briefing on November 29, addressing the potential preservation of Mali for exhibition in a local museum.

Dr. Heinrich Patrick Peña-Domingo, the chief veterinarian at Manila Zoo, suggested that Mali might have succumbed to heart failure after spending more than 40 years living alone at the zoo.

Described by animal rights activists as “one of the world’s saddest elephants,” Mali’s age remains uncertain, though estimations place her between 48 to 49 years old.

Mali arrived in Manila in 1977 as a gift from Sri Lanka to then-Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos. As a long-standing attraction at Manila Zoo, Mali was a fixture for generations of Filipinos who visited the zoo during their primary school field trips.

Rescued as an orphaned elephant in the wild at approximately three years old, Mali was initially housed with an older female elephant named Shiba, who had been saved from a circus. Shiba passed away six years after Mali’s arrival.

In 2012, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) initiated a campaign advocating for Mali’s relocation to an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, citing her as “perhaps one of the world’s saddest elephants.”

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