Revisiting Maali


WE write this editorial because we got this Letter to the Editor, with the title “The real elephant in the room.”

“There is no denying that there is a real ‘elephant in the room’ here in the Philippines. I am a college student from the United States visiting the Philippines for the first time. Upon arriving in the Philippines, all I have heard about is the elephant named Maali. I decided yesterday that I would go check her out and see what has made her a local celebrity.

“Right as I entered the Manila Zoo, I was greeted with a concrete enclosure that was about the size of my condo in Makati. I was appalled at the fact that some poor animal was living in such unnatural conditions; what made it so much worse was when I realized this was the ‘home’ of Maali. The conditions were horrendous. Maali didn’t appear to have access to any fresh water and her droppings were scattered about. Where are the trees and dirt that elephants have in the wild? Nowhere in Maali’s enclosure.

“Maali herself looked miserable, not the happy elephant everyone described. Her toes were severely cracked that made any ingrown I ever had instantly miniscule. Maali kept shifting her weight off her feet if that gives you any idea of how much pain she is in. People throw food at her like she is supposed to perform a trick or something – truly, truly sad.

“As soon as I got home, I looked for ways to get Maali help and that’s when I read about PETA Asia-Pacific’s campaign. Their goal is to get Maali the life she deserves by transferring her to a sanctuary in Thailand. Maali needs medical care and space that zoo officials in the Philippines cannot provide. Imagine trying to care for a lion or tiger in your home…you wouldn’t, would you? You don’t have the knowledge or the means to provide those animals the best life they can live which is EXACTLY the same case for Maali.

“People of the Philippines, I urge you to please put your pride and personal thoughts aside and think about the suffering Maali is facing. Maali is the “real elephant in the room” and it is time for her to be free.

“For more information, please visit:”

The letter is by Victoria Wall, Georgia Tech Station, Atlanta, GA 30332.

Plans to renovate the zoo
Last January, Mayor Joseph Estrada was reported by and Agence France Presse that Maali will not be sent to Thailand because the Manila Zoo will be turned into a world-class facility for animals. The zoo will be renovated starting this year and turned into something grand like the zoo in Singapore, which has rides for children running around it.

The renovation project will really happen, the Mayor said, because foreign donors have agreed to finance the renovation and upgraded maintenance.

PETA and a lot of celebrities have appealed to Mayor Estrada to agree to have Maali shipped to Thailand and there be given better care. But he told Agence France-Presse that he would not send Maali abroad because it “would be embarrassing” for it would mean that “we are not capable of taking care of one animal.”

He also said Maali would no longer be lonely because the government of Sri Lanka had offered to give the Manila Zoo to elephants to become Maali’s companions.

We hope the renovation of the Manila Zoo becomes a reality very fast and the plight of Maali immediately improves and ceases to be as miserable and cruel as Miss Victoria Wall describes it.

Mayor Estrada and his administration, we believe, are doing their best to solve Manila’s very many problems. We hope they can soon solve Maali’s problems too.


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  1. Yves Boquet on

    World-class facility ? Promised by world-class politicians such as Erap Estrada and Noynoy Aquino ? World laughter. Sad laughter.

  2. Majid Mohamed on

    Imagine if you have a pair of giant pandas to look after.
    The enclosure will cost $8 million and it has to be air-conditioned.
    And you have to plant bamboo on a plot in the Zoo to have
    a ready supply of shoots for them. But seriously the zoo can’t
    even look after an old elephant let alone become one like
    Singapore’s !

  3. Pete Gabriel on

    That is a typical Joseph Estrada response. We all can wait until hair grows out of our eyeballs, and nothing is going to get done. Worst is that the poor elephant will be dead before anything. If you believe this guy you will believe in fairy tales!