Hope for elephant Noor Jehan still alive as KMC allows foreign vets to visit Karachi Zoo

Published March 24, 2023
Noor Jehan, an African elephan, looks on from her barren enclosure at the Karachi zoo. — Photo by author
Noor Jehan, an African elephan, looks on from her barren enclosure at the Karachi zoo. — Photo by author

Noor Jehan, a 17-year-old African elephant living in a barren enclosure at the Karachi Zoo, has been suffering for the past few weeks. And with every passing day, her health is deteriorating.

Severe swelling on her joints has left her partially immobile and her genitals have become concerningly enlarged. Due to the immense pain, she can barely move now and is dragging herself.

While the zoo remains oblivious to her condition and has so far failed to provide any relief, a glimmer of hope was seen on Friday when the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), which runs the zoo, allowed Four Paws — an international animal rights group — to visit the metropolis and treat the elephant.

Four Paws has already been assisting the zoo management over the phone with Noor Jehan’s treatment. Last year, a team from the organisation visited Karachi and inspected all four elephants in the city — two at the Safari Park and two at the zoo.

During their visit, the vets had, among several other observations, concluded that Karachi Zoo elephants were living with noise pollution and their enclosures lacked a natural habitat. Subsequently, it had suggested that the zoo elephants be moved to the Safari Park.

In a letter dated March 24, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the KMC encouraged Four Paws’ interest in treating Noor Jehan.

“The health condition of an elephant [Noor Jehan] is not good, hence, the administration of Karachi Zoo, KMC, seeks your timely help,” it said.

The letter further stated the administration of the Safari Park had been directed to make necessary housing arrangements for Madhubala and Noor Jehan — the elephants at the zoo. “These elephants may possibly be shifted to Safari Park under your guidance and expertise,” it added.

 Noor Jehan, the zoo elephant, could now hardly stand on her feet. —Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
Noor Jehan, the zoo elephant, could now hardly stand on her feet. —Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

KMC’s letter comes after Four Paws sent a request to the administration to carry out a physical checkup of the elephants.

“Our lawyer Owais Awan is in contact with the respective persons at KMC and we were promised to receive an official letter and invitation from KMC,” Marina Ivanova, senior project manager at Four Paws, had told Dawn.com earlier.

“Without their written confirmation we can’t organise a visit to the zoo as we need access to the elephant at the zoo to be able to assess her current health status and needs,” she had added.

Ivanova had also promised that the team would “do our best to arrange everything necessary for the team to visit Karachi zoo”.

Reacting to today’s development, Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (Paws) head Mahera Omar told Dawn.com that she expected the Four Paws team to arrive in Karachi soon.

She also hoped that the elephants at the zoo would soon be reunited with their friends at the Karachi Safari Park.

“The journey of rehabilitation of the four wild-caught elephants in the city can finally begin. It has been a long time coming,” Omar added.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister’s Strategic Reforms head Salman Sufi — who has been following Noor Jehan’s case closely — said that a Punjab wildlife team had also been sent to the zoo.

“It will conduct tests of Noor Jehan and start new medication accordingly,” he told Dawn.com.

Sufi also said that the Centre had advised the Karachi administrators to facilitate the visit of Four Paws. “They have assured it. We will keep following up,” he added.

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