KARACHI: A day after performing a prolonged, successful surgery on Madhubala (elephant) for her chronic tusk infection at Karachi Zoo, the international team of vets representing Four Paws operated upon Noor Jehan, the other female elephant suffering from a similar ailment at the facility.

Speaking to Dawn, the experts described her operation on Thursday as less-challenging as compared to Madhubala’s which took the team five hours and 40 minutes to complete a day earlier.

“I am very much relieved today. It took us over three hours this time but the infection was still severe,” Dr Aaamir Khalil leading the global animal welfare group’s team said.

Both animals were recovering satisfactorily and would be reunited soon, he added.

Sharing his experience, team member Dr Thomas Bernd Hildebrandt, who heads the Department of Reproduction Management at Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, said Noor Jehan’s tusk root was infested with worms and maggots.

“The worms were 23 centimetres inside her head. We removed a tumor and a lot of dead tissues,” he said, adding that the infection could have affected her eyes and the brain, if left untreated.

Dr Thomas, a full professor of Wildlife Reproduction Medicine at Freie Universität Berlin, emphasised the need for post-surgery care for which the local zoo staff needed training.

Both experts agreed that these animals once rehabilitated should be united with Malika and Sonia, the two Safari Park elephants, as they all belonged to the same herd. The four female elephants were caught from the wild in Tanzania and brought to Karachi in 2009.

“Elephants are known for their intelligence, close family ties and social complexity. It’s important for their wellbeing that the four are kept together and the husbandry issue is addressed as the four animals are in their prime breeding age.”

In this respect, Dr Hildebrandt pointed out, artificial insemination could be an option (as there was no male member in the group) for which the animal welfare group could provide technical support to the local staff.

“But, this could only work when animals are provided with nice living conditions,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2022

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