Mali the Lonely Elephant Holds Her Own Tail for Comfort

When she was just a nursing calf, Mali the elephant was taken away from her mother in Sri Lanka and presented to Ferdinand Marcos, president of the Philippines at the time, as a gift.

That was 40 years ago. During those entire four decades, Mali has been confined in a concrete enclosure at the Manila Zoo. Ironically, signs posted outside her enclosure say elephants “favor areas with grass, coupled with low trees.”

In the wild, elephants roam up to 30 miles a day. Because of her small, cement enclosure, Mali has developed cracks in her feet that could kill her. Foot infections and arthritis are the two main causes of death for elephants in captivity.

Mali has been seen “walking to the edge of her pen and reaching out her foot in the hope of taking one more step,” Jason Baker, vice president of PETA Asia, said in a statement. “When she realizes that she has reached the end, Mali steps back and tries again … and again.”

Elephants are intelligent animals, but the only enrichment items the zoo has provided Mali with are a tire, some balls and running water. Besides walking around her enclosure, her main daily activity is catching peanuts tossed to her from zoo visitors.

When Mali was first brought to the zoo, she had two elephant companions in the enclosure. But they died soon after her arrival, and she’s been all alone ever since then. Elephants are social animals, and females have strong family bonds, spending their entire lives with their families. For those reasons, Mali has been referred to as “the loneliest elephant in the world,” and it’s probably not far from the truth.

In a photo that will break your heart, Mali is holding her own tail with her trunk, apparently in an effort to comfort herself.

Although visitors have observed that Mali is very depressed and also suffering from physical health issues, she receives very little veterinary care. In 2012, world-renowned conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall sent a letter to President Benigno Aquino, urging him to send Mali to a sanctuary.

“The Manila Zoo has failed Mali,” Goodall wrote. “Not only is she suffering from isolation and captivity-induced foot problems, I’ve also learned that she has not even had basic blood work conducted in the three and a half decades that she’s been at the zoo.”

PETA Asia has been trying to get Mali removed from the zoo for the past eight years. It offered to transport her to Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand free of charge, but officials of the zoo, which is run by the Philippines government, refused to let her go.

The officials say Mali, 43, is too old to survive being moved to a sanctuary, but PETA Asia disagrees.

“Around the world every year, elephants of all ages are successfully transported from zoo to zoo, from location to location by circuses, and from zoos to sanctuaries by truck, plane and train,” senior campaigner Ashley Fruno said in a February 2013 statement. “Transporting elephants is a common practice, and if it’s done carefully, it can be done without causing significant stress to the animal.”

Mali needs to enjoy the rest of her life in a sanctuary, and her survival may very well depend on it. Please join more than 360,000 others who have signed this petition telling the Philippines Secretary of Agriculture to release Mali to Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary.

Photo credit: YouTube


Past Member
Past Member 9 days ago

Nichole Hendryx And there is a HYPOCRITICAL TRUMP SUPPORTER on here who still pretends to care about animals. Sickening.

Cindy M. D
Cindy M. Dutka15 days ago

This is such a horror show. How could any human being allow this to continue??!!!!! Animal abuse must be stopped and those involved punished to the fullest extent of the law. Praying for sweet Mali and for her to be free at last.

william Miller
william Miller17 days ago


Christine Stewart

shame on them for having her live in a horrible concrete enclosure with no company of any kind

Carole R
Carole R17 days ago

This is truly sad. :0(

scarlett g.
scarlett g.17 days ago


Judy t
Judy t18 days ago

All zoos use the same excuse that transporting an elephant will kill them. After years of confinement they just won't let them retire to a beautiful sanctuary. They want them to suffer their whole live in a zoo. Mali already has health problems if I were an elephant I would rather take a chance in being moved to a sanctuary than to be stuck suffering alone dying in a concrete zoo. WE ARE NOW IN THE MODERN ERA AND ANIMAL ABUSE WILL NOT BE TOLERATED!! Let her experience freedom with other elephants! It is the humane thing to do.

Leo C
Leo Custer18 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

Janis K
Janis K18 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

Nan B
Nan B18 days ago

This abuse is equal to human abuse. Solitary confinement for a very social animal. Cruel torture. Not enough words to describe.