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


Telica R
Telica R3 months ago

Poor mali signed and shared

Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

Thanks for posting.

Beryl Ludwig
Beryl L6 months ago

This is horrible beyond words. I have a lump in my throat. poor darling. I signed. get her out fast, please.

Cally Smith
Cally Smith6 months ago

For heavens sake how cruel can people get? Let this precious baby go!! When will people learn to understand what is right and what is wrong? Zoo visitors are equally as bad. How can anyone POSSIBLY justify keeping any animal let alone an intelligent emotional creature such as this in isolated captivity for forty years? What bit of this do they not understand? LET HER GO.....SHE HAS LOST EVERYTHING IN HER LIFE AT LEAST OFFER HER SOME PEACE AND TRANQUILITY FOR HER REMAINING YEARS.

Carl R
Carl R6 months ago


Laura H
Laura H6 months ago

I signed the petition in May 2016. I cry every time I see or think about dear Mali...I am crying now out of frustration and anger. I do not understand how people can be SO cruel and heartless!!!

Marija M
Marija M6 months ago

Poor elephant...

Debra Tate
Debra Tate7 months ago


Beverly C
Beverly C7 months ago

Judy T.----I don't know how ANY zoo could possibly say transporting an elephant could kill them!!! HOW in heaven's name did they get TO the ZOOS to begin with??? SOMEONE TRANSPORTED THEM and they still live! Such an asinine excuse; not even a smidgen of truth in that stupid remark made by whatever zoo made it! They can be safely transported....The Boon Lott Elephant Sanctuary didn't just snap their fingers...those elephants were "transported" there! GOOD GRIEF! This make me furious! Such an idiotic insane remark for a zoo to make...THEY should be shut down! They obviously don't care about animals to make such allegations!!!

Beverly C
Beverly C7 months ago

This is so very sad; I signed the petition and suggest that EVERYONE signs it. Share it...etc, as we MUST get this poor soul out of that confinement crap and into a reputable animal sanctuary. WHY have they and WHY are they STILL keeping this majestic animal in "solitary confinement"?? NO animal deserves this kind of abuse---YES I SAID ABUSE. Abuse doesn't always mean physically hurting something or someone!!! What they are doing to this INNOCENT elephant is mental and emotional abuse, which is JUST as bad!! Come on folks; sign and let's get her in a wonderful place where she can be treated as she should be; with love, respect and caring! There's simply NO excuse in what these obvious morons are doing to Mali! NONE WHATSOEVER! So let';s ALL get busy and get her into an animal sanctuary (REPUTABLE ONLY) or back in her natural habitat to possibly be reunited with her family! I hope everyone realizes that elephants DO have families and they recognize them just as we humans recognize OUR families! Make no mistake about that. We MUST BAN TOGETHER and stop this atrocity. Those who know rescue groups, the International SPCA, Local SPCAs and the ASPCA...should contact them and get the ball rolling on transporting her to Boon Lot's Elephant Sanctuary NOW....before she DIES of loneliness; and if you think it can't happen, you are so wrong. Animals have been known to die just from being separated from an other of their kind. PLEASE