Animal Scene

MALI, THE SRI LANKAN ELEPHANT

- By MAXINE LOUISE LAGMAN

Elephants have a symbolic importance in culture, religion, and economy all throughout the world, especially in Asia. Many believe they are the symbol of strength, intelligen­ce, and power. And for years, the Philippine­s has been home to one majestic being: Mali, a 41-year-old female elephant.

“LADY OF THE WORLD”

“[They say the name] Mali [comes from the] Sri Lankan [word that means] ‘Lady of the World,’” said Marcelino Tasiong, a foreman who worked at the Manila Zoo for 28 years. True to her name, Mali was a sight to behold: she was a majestic lady worthy of love and care.

Just like many Asian elephants, Mali has dark skin, with depigmente­d patches on her face, belly, ears, and trunk. She weighs about 8,000 pounds but is shorter and looks wider than others.

According to Tasiong, Mali was rescued by caretakers from the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage -- the biggest place in Asia that caters to cater to orphaned, abandoned, and wild Asian elephants -- after her mother died due to natural causes in Sri Lanka.

In 1980, the Sri Lankan government decided to donate three-year-old Mali to then First Lady Imelda Marcos. Mali was taken to the Malacanang Palace to pay the Marcos family a courtesy visit before she was transporte­d to Manila Zoo.

Though elephants were not usually territoria­l, Shiba, the old female elephant rescued from the circus residing at the zoo at the time, found it hard to accept Mali.

“Sabi nila nung una daw, takot pa yang si Mali. May time kasi na sinama siya dun sa adult, eh medyo nagulat si Shiba kaya medyo nahampas niya ng onti si Mali. (They said Mali was scared in the beginning. When she joined Shiba, the latter was caught off-guard and hit her),” shared Tasiong.

When Shiba eventually died, Mali could finally roam on her own, trying to get used to her new home.

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