KARACHI: Vets from the global animal welfare organisation Four Paws are on their way to Karachi for the medical treatment of four female African elephants, two of whom are at Karachi Zoo and two in Safari Park. Their main concern, however, is the root canal procedure of 17-year-old Noor Jehan and 16-year-old Madhubala, the two pachyderms at the Karachi Zoo.
For the root canal procedure, the vets are bringing specially-designed, large-sized excavators, drills, endodontic burs and other dental instruments. The tusk infection in both the animals is stated to have reached an alarming stage and they are in constant pain.
The mission is taking place in response to a Sindh High Court’s May 2022 order that allowed two identical petitions by the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), a local organisation for the welfare and well-being of the animals, and a citizen Owais Awan calling for medical care of the elephants which are stated to be in poor condition due to prolonged neglect.
Four Paws’ vets had earlier visited the animals in the last week of November 2021 and after collecting blood samples and tests, they had submitted a number of recommendations in the SHC regarding better enabling environment, food, medical care and training etc.
However, this time, the petitioners sought the court’s permission to allow the vets to return and perform medical treatment as according to the counsel for the petitioners, Abbas Leghari, the KMC lacked expertise to implement those recommendations.
The Four Paws team comprises Dr Marina Ivanova, Dr Frank Goritz, Dr Thomas Hilderbrandt, Four Paws CEO Josef Pfabigan, Director Dr Amir Khalil, elephant trainer Mathias Otto and his assistant Agnieszka.
Dr Khalil, Dr Ivanova, Dr Hilderbrandt and Dr Goritz were part of the mission that visited in 2021 and performed tests and collected blood and urine samples of the elephants.
About Noor Jehan and Madhubala, Dr Frank, the team lead, had observed in the report that the damaged and infected tusks needed to be removed as soon as possible otherwise the tooth infection will prove to be fatal for the animals. He added that the elephants at the zoo had severe dental problems, which are both “painful” and “life-threatening”.
According to Dr Khalil, it is going to be a unique operation unheard of, as removal of the elephant’s infected tusk requires quite large instruments, special procedure and care.
“We are coming as a big team this time as it is a very important and unique operation to be performed by internationally-recognised vets of Four Paws,” he said.
“The surgery, which is complicated, needs a specialised team and special equipment,” he added.
The report also disclosed and the SHC referred it in its May 2022 order that the two elephants at the Safari Park were also facing foot problems like cracked nails, overgrown foot pads, overgrown and mala-formed nails and an abscess.
One of the two elephants at Safari Park, Sonu, earlier considered a male, also turned out to be female. Interestingly, the zoo vets, despite having them for over a decade at the Safari Park, were not aware of the gender of Sonu (now Sonia), and even after the ultrasound test performed by vets, insisted that she was a male elephant.
She and her companion Malika were brought from Tanzania in 2009 and since then, it is believed, that no vet had gone near them.
Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2022