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Mali, the 'World's Saddest Elephant,' Dies Alone in Captivity: 'You Deserved Better'

Mali, the only captive elephant in the Philippines, died from health complications after decades of confinement at the Manila Zoo

<p>Ezra Acayan/Getty</p>

Ezra Acayan/Getty

An elephant known as “the world’s saddest elephant” by PETA and other animal welfare groups has died at the Manila Zoo, the city’s mayor announced.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Mayor Honey Lacuna announced that Mali the elephant —deemed the “saddest” by some because she was the only captive elephant in the Philippines and lived alone in a pen for decades — recently died from health complications.

Mali, whose full name was Vishwamali, and her captivity caught the attention of many animal activists, including Paul McCartney.


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<p>Ezra Acayan/Getty</p>

Ezra Acayan/Getty

In 2013, while working with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Paul McCartney raised awareness about Mali's solitary life. He asked authorities to move the animal to an elephant sanctuary. Writing to Philippine President Benigno Aquino III in 2013, McCartney said, "With the stroke of a pen, you can bring an end to her suffering, and I urge you, with all my heart, to please direct that Mali be given that joy now." Others involved in the "Free Mali" movement included Pamela Anderson and Dr. Jane Goodall.

According to PETA U.K., during her years at the zoo, Mali experienced "intense confinement, loneliness, boredom and isolation." The organization added that while an elephant sanctuary was prepared to take Mali in, the elephant was kept in captivity in Manila, where she was considered an integral part of the zoo.

On Tuesday, Mali, who was confirmed to have cancer and an aorta blockage after her death, was seen lying on her side and breathing heavily, Dr. Heinrich Patrick Peña-Domingo, the chief veterinarian at the Manila Zoo, said at the news conference, according to BBC News. She was also rubbing her trunk against a wall, signaling that she was in pain. While vets gave her antihistamines and vitamins, Mali died the same day.

<p>Ezra Acayan/Getty</p>

Ezra Acayan/Getty

Related: Largest Zoo in the U.K. Names New Baby Elephant with Royal Connection After Queen Elizabeth

While many fought against the conditions Mali dealt with, others didn't see the elephant's captivity as unfavorable. "She might seem alone, but she had us beside her," Mayor Lacuna said in the Facebook conference video. "She was the face that greeted everyone who visited Manila Zoo. She is a part of our lives."

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Lacuna said she would ask Sri Lanka to donate another elephant to the Manila Zoo, as they did with Mali. In response, animal rights activists said they would fight to ensure that another elephant doesn't end up at the zoo alone.

In a statement, PETA Asia said, "Because of indifference and greed, Mali the elephant died the same way she had lived for nearly 50 years: alone in a concrete pen at the Manila Zoo… People everywhere can do their part to protect other elephants by staying away from any business that puts animals on display for entertainment."

On X, PETA Asia added, "We're so sorry, Mali. You deserved better."

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