In today’s issue of South China Morning Post, my hubby Alan writes about the unusual problem facing former president-turn-mayor Joseph Estrada:
Mayor Estrada wrestles with jumbo problem
Saturday, 10 August, 2013, 12:00am
Alan Robles in Manila
Manila’s new mayor and former president Joseph Estrada faces a host of issues: traffic, garbage, urban decay, lack of funds. And then there’s the matter of a lonely female elephant confined in one of the world’s most miserable zoos.
Vishwamaali, Maali for short, is the only elephant in the Philippines. Shipped from Sri Lanka when she was three, the 39-year old elephant has spent her life in a concrete pen as the star attraction of the seedy Manila Zoo.
Estrada sympathised with Maali’s lonely plight during the election campaign. But he recently outraged animal rights activists when he clarified that he would remedy this by getting Maali some companions.
The five-hectare zoo, which is forested and has a lagoon, is smelly and forlorn. There are unlikely features such as a shrine of angels and the child Jesus, and a wishing well. Many of its enclosures are little more than cages with thick bars, rusty wire screens and padlocks.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) maintains Maali is suffering and demands she be freed and transferred to a sanctuary in Thailand.
The animal activists have allies in celebrities such as French film star Brigitte Bardot, Filipino musician Ely Buendia and Nobel Prize winning author J.M. Coetzee. Last year the Philippine Congress issued a resolution supporting the elephant’s transfer.
Three days before the mayoral election in May, Estrada wrote to Peta saying “it is not right for people, especially children, to see lonely, ailing and depressed animals living in deplorable conditions”.
The would-be mayor said Maali was “an example of how we can right some of the wrongs of the past and teach compassion and understanding to a whole generation”. He added: “She may be seen as ‘just an elephant’ to some, but she symbolises so much more.”
But it was only after he won that Estrada revealed what he was actually proposing to solve Maali’s loneliness.
To read the rest, please click on this link.