KARACHI: The condition of zoo elephant Noor Jehan is deteriorating day by day as swelling on her hind knee joints has increased, now involving her spine, putting more stress on the front legs, while her genital area has grossly enlarged, it emerged on Tuesday.
According to sources, the zoo staff is clueless about the disease the 16-year-old elephant has been suffering from for the past few months. Not a single laboratory test for diagnosis has been carried out yet; the zoo neither has the facility for this purpose nor dedicated staff specialising in this job.
A visit to the zoo revealed that the ailing animal could barely move now in the barren enclosure where she had been confined, along with Madhubala, the other female elephant, for more than a decade.
“She has lost weight and appears to be in constant physical and mental distress. Nutritional deficiencies might have contributed to her condition,” an official source told Dawn, fearing that the poor animal might lose the ability to stand if immediate intervention wasn’t made.
Experts from Four Paws to arrive this month, says zoo head
Rejecting these concerns, zoo officials claimed that the elephant’s condition wasn’t serious.
“We are giving her all the medicines as being prescribed by Four Paws’ experts, who would be here any day this month. In the meantime, we have contacted the Punjab wildlife director general who has agreed to send a team for animal’s examination,” Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) Senior Director Khalid Hashmi, who heads the zoo, said.
The elephant, he said, hadn’t lost weight and being provided 250kg of feed including sugar cane, fruits and green fodder on a daily basis.
About the lab tests, zoo officials said they were strictly following whatever was being conveyed to them by the Four Paws’ team.
“The foreign experts specialise in elephant care and management and I think we should wait for their arrival,” Mr Hashmi said.
He regretted that elephants’ relocation to the Safari Park as per the recommendations of the Four Paws experts had been delayed for over one year.
“Animal-friendly environment in Safari Park will definitely have a great positive impact on their well-being. I have been pursuing this matter since I have taken over the charge here in January this year,” he said, adding that he had sent two reminders in this respect to the officials concerned.
According to zoo vet Dr Aamir Ismail, the staff is daily updating the experts on the animal’s condition and their instructions are being implemented.
“She has been getting treatment for joint pains and swellings since January. No diagnosis has been made yet.”
It might be recalled that both Noor Jehan and Madhubala, along with two other elephants were caught and separated from their mothers at a very young age in Tanzania.
The four animals came to Pakistan under a controversial agreement. Their well-being has been a source of concern among animal lovers since their arrival in 2010.
Last year, they underwent major surgeries for chronic tusk infection by Four Paws on orders of the Sindh High Court, which was approached by a group of citizens worried over animal plight.
Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2023