Baring their bodies and holding letters that spell out, "Naked Truth: Mali the Elephant Is Suffering," a group of sexy models and famous entertainers posed for a brand-new ad for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Asia photographed at the DPI XL Studios in Makati City on Tuesday. The stars included (Refer to photo: from left, back row) Sanya Smith, Amanda Griffin Jacob, Ornusa Cadness, Bianca Valerio, Julia Sniegowski, Mia Ayessa, (front row) Sheena Vera Cruz, Daiana Menezes, and Geneva Cruz.
An online petition was recently signed by more than 60,000 people calling for the transfer of Mali from solitary confinement at the Manila Zoo, where she is ailing and denied everything that's natural and important to her, to a spacious sanctuary in Thailand, where she would enjoy vast spaces in which to roam, the vital company of other elephants, and top veterinary care. Despite the international outcry and Mali's failing health, which leaves her in pain, the government has yet to take action to facilitate her transfer.
The ad was shot by ace photographer Niccolo Cosme. The makeup and hair team included Anju Dargani of Magic by Anju Dargani, Gale Malimban, and Nina Dumpa, Aislynn Liao, Celine Ner, Kimberly Ann Chua, Eula Paula Esmeralda, and Viv Flores from the Philippine Make-Up Artists Association.
"36 years is an eternity. I can't even imagine what Mali has been through. We need to save her before it's too late," says Sanya Smith. "She's been stuck in a concrete pen, staring at the same walls, longer than I have even been alive. Her suffering is unimaginable."
"The stars are aligning for Mali's freedom," says PETA Asia Campaigns Manager Rochelle Regodon. "After enduring 36 years of confinement to what amounts to a prison cell, Mali deserves a second chance at life at a sanctuary that can give her opportunities to socialize with other elephants, roam in natural surroundings, and finally receive the expert veterinary care that she so badly needs."
There are two compelling reasons why Mali needs to be transferred to a sanctuary as soon as possible. First, she has been forced to endure solitary confinement for more than three decades. Socialization among elephants is essential to the well-being of these highly-intelligent animals—females remain in close-knit, extended family groups for their entire lives. In these herds, births are joyous celebrations, and deaths of loved ones are mourned. Youngsters are nurtured and taught life skills, such as how to use different kinds of leaves and mud to ward off sunburn and insect bites. Not a single zoological or elephant association condones housing elephants alone.
Second, Mali's health is rapidly deteriorating, and her needs far surpass the Manila Zoo's ability to provide for them. In fact, Mali has been denied proper veterinary care for the entire time that she has been at the zoo. Internationally recognized elephant expert Dr. Henry Melvyn Richardson, who has more than 40 years of experience working with elephants, has appealed to the Manila Zoo to take action in response to Mali's urgent health needs.
Mali is suffering from debilitating foot ailments, the leading cause of death in captive elephants, and Richardson has determined that her condition has grown worse since his initial examination in May 2012. Mali suffers from cracked nails and foot pads and overgrown cuticles. These problems are a direct result of decades of not having adequate space in which to move freely as well as not receiving preventive foot care, both of which are essential to the well-being of every captive elephant. Wild elephants roam up to 50 km a day over a variety of substrates, and they rarely develop foot ailments. The entire Manila Zoo measures only 0.055 square km, and Mali's entire enclosure is a tiny fraction of that size.
"Mali favors or removes the weight from primarily her left forelimb regularly when standing in one place," Richardson wrote. "Occasionally she does favor the right as well, alternating with the left. I am absolutely certain Mali has pain in her front limbs and feet. Elephants carry the majority of their weight on their front legs and so it is expected that elephants living in ill-conceived, unimaginative, and abusive environments like Mali's at the Manila Zoo would suffer the most in their front end." He adds, "To put it simply: Mali may die from the lack of care she is receiving if left at the zoo. I can state that if Mali is left at the Manila Zoo that she will continue to physically suffer and be lonely with 100% certainty. And sentencing an elephant to live alone is the cruelest abuse of all."
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has issued a directive to consider Mali for relocation to a sanctuary. Mali's transfer has also received high-profile international support from such notables as French film legend Brigitte Bardot, ethologist and wildlife conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall, and Nobel Prize-winning author J.M. Coetzee.
For more information, please visit PETAAsiaPacific.com.