Successful elephant return shows growing opposition to mistreatment of animals

By Jiang Chenglong| China Daily| Updated: August 10, 2022


Visitors greet Moli after her return to Kunming Zoo. [Photo by Yang Zheng/For China Daily]

Female calf travels back to her hometown following social media campaign by thousands of concerned netizens and well-known figures from the world of entertainment. 

A famous Asian elephant calf in Southwest China will never know that tens of millions of people nationwide spoke up for her, leading to her return to her hometown 1,600 kilometers from zoos where netizens suspected she was being abused.

The female calf was born in 2016 at Kunming Zoo in the capital of Yunnan province. She was reportedly the first of the third generation of Asian elephants born and bred in China's zoos. As such, she quickly attracted attention. Local TV stations conducted a livestream of her 100th-day party, which was attended by more than 500 primary school students.

On her first birthday, the calf was officially named Moli-pronounced the same as the Mandarin word for jasmine flower-reflecting people's best wishes for her, according to, an online news portal.

A report on China Central Television said Moli was served a huge "cake" consisting of various fruits, while hundreds of children surrounded her enclosure and sang Happy Birthday. Moli's keepers said they would hold birthday parties for her every year.

However, Moli didn't enjoy a second birthday party at the zoo-instead, she experienced many twists and turns in the years that followed.

Kunming Zoo's official social media account said Moli was weaned and one of her feet was chained to a stake.

In spring 2018, the then 2-year-old was transferred to a zoo in Qinyang, a city in the central province of Henan, in exchange for another Asian elephant. The plan was to mate the older elephant in new surroundings to widen the gene pool in China's zoos.

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