‘Male elephant’ at Karachi's Safari Park turns out to be female after 12 years, SHC told

Published December 1, 2021
Experts examine one of the two female elephants at Karachi Zoological Gardens on Monday. —AFP
Experts examine one of the two female elephants at Karachi Zoological Gardens on Monday. —AFP

KARACHI: A six-member team of veterinary experts on Tuesday informed the Sindh High Court (SHC) that the overall physical condition of the four African elephants at Karachi Zoo and Safari Park was good, but some immediate and long-term measures were needed to address their dietary, dental and other issues.

The team, headed by German vet Dr Frank Goritz, in its interim report placed before the SHC made a startling disclosure that one of the four elephants earlier considered as a male turned out to be a female in check-up.

The report said that as per preliminary results, both elephants kept at Safari Park had severe food problems and elephants at Zoo had severe dental problems.

Dr Goritz requested a two-judge bench headed by Justice Zafar Ahmed Rajput two-week time as results of some tests were still pending. He said he would clearly communicate the detailed results of the assessment and provide a report with specific recommendations.

The interim report stated that the team carried out visual inspection of body condition, blood collection for analysis, behaviour/temper, foot and dental status, standing sedation, body measurements for scientifically based calculation of body condition scoring index and other procedures.

Read more: Veterinary team examines elephants at Karachi's Safari Park

“The overall physical condition of elephants is good, but slightly overweight and developed mild subcutaneous edema [accumulation of body water in the tissue]. However, both animals at [Karachi] Zoo showed low haemoglobin concentration and decreased haematocrit/PCV 3,” the report stated.

It also stated that one elephant, Sonu, at the Safari Park presented as a male turned out to be proven female as uterus and inactive ovaries were visualised ultrasonographically, but an oversized clitoris has been palpated inside the vestibulum, which was getting exposed very often by Sonu as reported by local staff.

It may be noted that elephants Sonu and Malaka were brought from Tanzania in 2009.

The team suggested some immediate actions including implementation of medical training into daily routine to provide proper foot care to two elephants, surgical removal of damaged and infected tusks with subsequent topic and general anti-infectious and anti-inflammatory treatment, vaccination against tetanus and other clostridium bacteria foot.

It added that dental problems/diseases were very painful and could lead to life-threatening situations in elephants.

As a long-term measure, it also recommended to provide species-specific keeping conditions necessary for housing a group of adult female elephants safely and ensure a good health status on a long-term basis to improve the animal well-being.

“Although the actual physical condition of elephants is good and their health status is not alarming, they display signs of neglected body/food care programme and some stereotypic behaviour, but it is imperative to train the animal to receive routine body care and basic medical check-ups (food trimming, blood collection) as well as to provide simple veterinary care (injections, treatment of creaked nails, wound treatments) to prevent disease manifestation and decline of general health conditions.”

The bench granted three-week time to the team for submitting the final report and adjourned the matter till Dec 22.

In September, the SHC had appointed Dr Goritz to verify the health condition of the four elephants after a non-governmental organisation for animals had petitioned the SHC seeking the shifting of the elephants to an appropriate habitat. The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, however, claimed that elephants had no health issues and needed no medical assistance.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2021

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