There are other animals, aside from Maali, the famous 38-year old Asian elephant, that currently reside at the Manila Zoological and Botanical Garden or the Manila Zoo. It also has Bertha the hippopotamus, some tigers, reptiles and many others. But I must confess that I recently visited this zoo just for Maali, which gained considerable media coverage these days. The PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and various concerned partieshave lamented that she has suffered enough isolation and neglect at her tiny enclosure. They want her to be transported to an elephant sanctuary elsewhere.
When I finally saw Maali, I asked myself the following: Does she looked tired? Maybe she needs a friend? How does she deal with all the attention? I could only wish that Maali answered my questions that day.
But I do remember an interesting conversation I had with a zoo caretaker back in Cebu many years ago. He said that we should be careful in describing animal behavior using human emotions because they possess instincts that are primarily different from ours. He added that even if the animals are caged, all they need are the right combinations of stimulus to survive or to propagate or to live a good life.
A vendor selling animal hats and other small souvenirs interrupted my train of thought. I then moved away from Maali’s playground to see the other animals on display.
The Manila Zoo also showcases endemic Philippine wildlife such as the Tamaraw, Palawan Bearcat and a Blue-naped Parrot. You may want to look for them at your visit to this zoo, as these are only found in the Philippines. The cost and chances of seeing them in their natural habitat are expensive and slim, respectively.
I then passed by the lagoon where some families are enjoying their time even under the mid-day sun. Some were paddling their rented boats across this body of water that could potentially hold a separate microscopic ecosystem. I recall that when I was still a fat gradeschooler, some of my cousins had their photos taken at this portion of the zoo. Manila Zoo, or at least for me back then, was a destination in Metro Manila. Now that there is the MOA and other malls in the city, it may not be the case anymore.
It is said that the Manila Zoo was actually the first of its kind in Asia. It first opened to the public on July 25, 1959. I could only imagine how it looked like back in its heyday. The animal enclosures were probably cleaner. The animals looked healthier. There is probably a long queue by its entrance too.
But maybe through the years, there was not enough funds to pay for the upkeep of the place. The entrance fee is just a meager Php40.00 for adults and half of that for children. So if you do the simple math, these fees may not be adequate to foot the rising cost of the animal feeds let alone allot a budget for facility improvement.
What becomes of Maali, all the other animals and the zoo as a whole, is anybody’s guess. But this challenge should not be left only in the hands of the local government. If the community would find a compelling reason to keep the Manila Zoo for the next fifty years or so, then it should rally with other organizations in pooling additional funds. They might be able to churn in more creative and wilder ideas too, if only to make our next trip to this part of the city more educational, more fun and more memorable as well.
Manila Zoological and Botanical Garden
M. Adriatico St. Malate, Manila
+63 2 3642469
The zoo is open daily from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
Entrance fees for Manila residents: Adults – Php 20.00, Children – Php 10.00.
For everyone else: Adults – Php 40.00, Children – Php 20.00