PETA renews calls to close down Manila zoo

Thea Alberto-Masakayan

Amid calls to improve the facilities at the country’s capital zoo, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have renewed its appeal to close down Manila zoo and let the animals live in their natural habitat.

“Improvements are never going to replace natural habitat. There is no such thing as a good zoo,” Rochelle Regodon, PETA Asia-Pacific campaigns manager told Yahoo! Southeast Asia in a phone interview.

Regodon said it would be better to “lock up the zoo and stop bringing in animals.”

Photos of wounded, unhealthy, and emaciated animals in Manila zoo have been making rounds in the Internet and have fueled calls to improve the decades-old tourist destination. Manila zoo is also among the trending topics for the Philippines in micro-blogging site Twitter.

Regodon cited the case of the elephant “Mafi,” a Manila zoo attraction for 30 years now.

“It’s not his natural habitat. He’s in a small cemented area. We already contacted a sanctuary in the U.S. and they agreed to take her in,” Regodon said. However, local authorities refused to heed their calls.

“We wouldn’t impose the expenses [of the transfer] to the Manila government. We will find ways to make it happen,” she added.

Regodon also laments the case of “Sisi,” an orangutan who lived in Manila zoo since 1981 and died there two years ago.

Sisi had to bear living in a “tiny, litter-filled concrete-and-steel enclosure” and was “continually on display in a cage that was surrounded by noisy souvenir stands and food vendors,” PETA said in one of its petitions.

Regodon said locking up animals also defeats the purpose of creating zoos to educate kids.

“What should we be educating children? There is no educational value in keeping animals in a zoo,” said Regodon noting that students can still learn about animals through books and the Internet.

Meanwhile, the Malacanang on Thursday said it shares the concern expressed by the public and that they have alerted the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI).

“As a response, the BAI, through the Committee on Animal Welfare, said that it continuously engages in a comprehensive discussion with the animal advocates, particularly on the condition of Mali the elephant and other animals in the zoo,”

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda also urged concerned citizens to help restore the Manila zoo.

“It is noteworthy that concerned citizens have expressed the willingness to assist in any way they can, to help the Manila Zoo improve its facilities and raise its standards. We are encouraged by this demonstration of public spirit on the part of our fellow citizens,” said Lacierda.

He said that those who want to help raise funds to restore the Manila Zoo can call 468-9498 and 383-6862.

There is also a signature campaign via petition site