Madhubala to undergo ‘unique’ surgery at Karachi Zoo today

Published August 16, 2022
<p>MEMBERS of Four Paws, a global animal welfare group, share views with zoo officials in front of the cage of Madhubala, the Tanzanian elephant. The team arrived at Karachi Zoo on Monday to carry out dental treatment of the elephant.
—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star</p>

MEMBERS of Four Paws, a global animal welfare group, share views with zoo officials in front of the cage of Madhubala, the Tanzanian elephant. The team arrived at Karachi Zoo on Monday to carry out dental treatment of the elephant. —Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

KARACHI: Madhubala — one of the two elephants kept at Karachi Zoo who was caught and separated from her mother at a very young age in Tanzania and brought to Pakistan 14 years ago — will finally undergo treatment for her damaged and infected tusks on Tuesday (today) that has kept her in pain for several years.

Thanks to concerned citizens and international experts who made the dental surgery possible. According to experts, the procedure is being carried out in a unique way and for the first time on an elephant.

“Tomorrow is a big day. Our vets are arriving from Berlin and we plan to carry out two-tusk treatment under a ‘standing’ sedation which has been used to treat other animals (in the world), but never before elephants,” Dr Aamir Khalil of a global animal welfare group, Four Paws, told Dawn.

Dr Khalil, along with his team members, visited the zoo on Monday morning, examined Madhubala and Noor Jahan, the other female pachyderm whose tusk surgery is scheduled for Wednesday (tomorrow), and made preparations for the procedure.

The treatment, according to the experts, is so unique that they have to develop special equipment for it.

Explaining the reason for choosing the innovative method, he said: “It’s much less invasive than the traditional approach, which is only possible under risky anesthesia and results in long post-surgery treatment with a higher risk of complications.”

The surgery will be performed by two specialised veterinarians from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research from Berlin; Prof Thomas Hildebrandt and Dr Frank Göritz, also part of the team who will be arriving on Tuesday morning.

The team will remove the dead tissues, clean the root canal, and teach the local team how to conduct regular post-treatment flushing to prevent inflammation and sustain hygiene of the wounds.

“Both sides of the tusks are swollen, though the right side is a bit more. I can’t say anything right now about the infection’s severity till I have a closer examination tomorrow,” Dr Marina Ivanova said while talking about Madhubala’s condition.

It’s hard to tell now how their tusks were broken as tissues had changed their form, she added.

Sharing his observations, Mathias Otto, a trainer with over 30 years’ of zoo experience, said dental problems were quite painful that greatly affected behaviour of elephants, making them aggressive that could result in self injury.

“I have trained the keepers here and those at the Safari Park in foot-care management. I also tame animals how to respond to keepers attending to their needs,” he explained.

The team has been in constant contact with the local staff in Karachi since the previous year in November when the team had paid its first visit to the facility after the court took notice of the elephants’ misery housed in the zoo and Safari Park and issued orders to concerned officials to take steps for their wellbeing.

The expert team submitted a detailed report to the court on the animals’ welfare previous year and plans to submit another document at the end of their visit.

Josef Pfabigan, the chief executive officer of Four Paws, described the collaboration for elephants’ welfare as a great example for the rest of the world.

“The animals have surely been in pain for many years. But, the positive thing is the society and the court took notice of their plight and took practical steps to help them out.”

The cost for treatment is covered by the organisation which raised donations from supporters across the world.

Mahera Omar representing the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society, a co-petitioner in the elephant case, said: “We are extremely grateful to Four Paws for providing the much-needed treatment to the elephants. We are praying that all goes well and the animals rehabilitate successfully. The unique surgery will surely open doors for other captive animals around the world.”

Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2022

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