KARACHI: History was made at Karachi Zoo on Wednesday where Madhubala the elephant underwent a long and incredible surgery for her chronic tusk infection by an international team of experts.
The operation was not only challenging for the vets, who had been preparing for the day for months and finally performed a complicated procedure through a unique method in the humid weather of Karachi.
It was tough for 16-year-old Madhubala, too. The poor animal suffering from a painful inflammation and infection of the tusk for several years remained under ‘standing sedation’ for over six hours for the procedure.
“It was indeed a difficult operation both for us and the animal. We were expecting that the surgery would take two to three hours but it finally took five hours and 40 minutes,” Dr Aamir Khalil told Dawn.
Team of vets perform over five-hour-long surgery on one of two elephants at Karachi Zoo
According to Dr Khalil, who is leading the Four Paws’ team, he hasn’t treated such a case before. “I have never seen something like this before. The tusk root was 45 centimetres long and completely rotten. That’s why the operation took so much time. We took it out in bits and pieces. There were a lot of pus and worms inside the wound.”
“We were exhausted in the end but very happy and satisfied to see that the animal started moving and eating soon after regaining complete consciousness,” he said, while appreciating expertise of Dr Frank Goritz and Dr Thomas Hilderbrandt.
The team, including Dr Marina Ivanova, elephant trainer Mathias Otto and Agnieszka, is in Karachi these days to treat the four elephants housed in Karachi Zoo and Safari Park.
The team had examined the animals and submitted a detailed report on elephants’ well-being to the Sindh High Court last year and had recommended immediate surgery for Madhubala and Noor Jahan, the two elephants kept at Karachi Zoo.
The tusks of both elephants were broken and the tissue inside the wounds was inflamed and infected. “Without treatment, the inflammation will expand and cause blindness or even brain damage and death,” Dr Khalil said.
A unique method
Instead of a traditional approach, the team used a less invasive, unique new technique that required less complicated aftercare, given the conditions at the zoo. And, the treatment under a ‘standing’ sedation which has been used to treat other animals [in the world], but never before elephants.”
“We used specially designed drills and endodontic burs along with other dental instruments. During the procedure, the dead tissue was removed and the root canal cleaned,” Dr Ivanova said.
About Madhubala’s post-surgery care, she said it’s extremely important and the team’s trainer would teach local caretakers how to conduct regular post-treatment flushing and cleaning of the wounds to prevent further inflammation.
“Madhubala is finally freed from incredible pain. The medical treatment is an important step to improve her well-being and we expect good results for her recovery,” she said, adding that the vets’ recommended reunion of the all four elephants in Karachi at Safari Park once they recovered from the surgery.
Elephants Malika and Sonia at Safari Park suffer from cracked and overgrown nails and footpads and abscesses, which the team treated and gave aftercare instructions to the local team.
Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2022