Philippine mayor rejects transfer of 'lonely' elephant

MANILA - The mayor of the Philippine capital on Thursday rejected calls by animal rights campaigners to transfer the country's sole elephant from Manila's rundown zoo to a Thai sanctuary.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been leading a campaign for nearly a decade to have Sri Lankan-born Mali moved from the zoo, insisting the 39-year-old elephant is lonely and being poorly treated.

However the recently elected mayor of Manila, former Philippine president and movie star Joseph Estrada, said transferring Mali would be a humiliation for the country.

"Mali is just one elephant and sending her to Thailand would be embarrassing. It means we are not capable of taking care of one animal," Estrada told AFP.

Mali is the star attraction at the 54-year-old zoo, but PETA says she is suffering in a small, concrete enclosure and without any other elephants for company.

PETA want her moved to a sanctuary in Thailand. Its campaign has attracted the support of the country's powerful Catholic bishops association, as well as international celebrities such as British pop star Morrissey.