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House panel OKs resolution for elephant Mali’s transfer, but zookeepers won’t let go

The House committee on natural resources on Wednesday approved a resolution supporting the transfer of Mali, the elephant held in captivity at the Manila Zoo.
The zoo’s management, however, remained firm on its stand not to allow Mali’s transfer to a sanctuary in northern Thailand, citing the elephant’s age.
Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, who filed House Resolution 2937 asking for Mali’s transfer to Thailand, said the elephant can be better taken care of if it will be sent abroad.
“Mali has already served a lot of Filipino children. She has done her part. Is time to provide her with happy memories,” Ilagan said during the congressional hearing.
Jana Sevilla of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) even said that her group is willing to shoulder all the expenses that will be incurred for Mali’s transfer.
“Mali is alone in the Manila Zoo. She is sad and extremely depressed… Mali is in pain and her condition will only get worse,” Sevilla said during the hearing.
She also maintained that Manila Zoo’s lone elephant is suffering from “emotional isolation” and “mental deprivation.”
‘Alone, but not lonely’
But Donald Manalastas, chief of Manila Zoo’s zoological division, said that Mali cannot be transferred to Thailand due to her age, which supposedly makes her “unsafe to travel.”
“Mali has been here with us 35 years. Mali considers us our family. There is a difference between being alone and being lonely,” Manalastas said during the hearing.
John Chua, Mali’s caretaker, meanwhile delivered an impassioned speech where he said that transferring the elephant to Thailand will “endanger its life.”
“Mali is not lonely. She is not alone. Children come in to interact with the elephant. I may not be an expert but I know how she feels,” Chua said.
He added that Mali may find it hard to adapt to the environment at the elephant sanctuary in northern Thailand, since she has been in Manila for most of her life.
For his part, Luis del Mundo, who was sent by the office of Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, said that while the local government “respects” the House resolution, it will not allow Mali’s transfer. 
He added that under the law, the local government has jurisdiction over animals kept within its territory. — RSJ, GMA News