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CBCP head backs transfer of Manila zoo elephant to Thailand

MANILA, June 25, 2012— The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has sought the “immediate” transfer of “Mali,” a 38-year-old elephant from Manila Zoo to a sanctuary in Thailand.

“Mali might have a few years to live but these remaining years will be more expressive of man’s compassion towards God’s other creatures,” said Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma.

"Thanks to a directive from President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and the work of PETA, a sanctuary could offer 'Mali' a chance to save her from years of boredom and misery, and above all, save her life," he said.

Palma’s statement was contained in a letter to animals welfare advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Asia, which had long been calling for Mali’s transfer to a sanctuary “where she can live out her life in dignity and good health and in the company of other elephants.”

Just last month, Mali received a visual medical examination by internationally recognized elephant expert Dr. Henry Melvyn Richardson, who noted in his report that Mali is suffering from several physical ailments—including foot disorders that could eventually be fatal—and extreme psychological stress as a result of her isolation.

Richardson, who was flown to the Philippines at PETA's expense, has also recommended that Mali be transferred to a sanctuary for care, rehabilitation, and the vital company of other elephants.

PETA has secured Mali a place at a sanctuary with 14 other elephants in northern Thailand and will pay for expenses related to her transport there.

For elephants, the frustrations of captivity and the lack of companionship often lead to abnormal, neurotic behavior—in Mali's case, incessant pacing, PETA said.

It said that 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, for example, has ordered that all elephants in zoos be transferred to government-run sanctuaries and reserves. [CBCPNews]