FOR years, she was a star attraction for children visiting the Karachi Zoo who delighted in taking rides on her back. But Nur Jehan’s existence has been a pitiful one, and particularly so in recent years when the 17-year-old African elephant has been afflicted by one ailment after another. For two months, she has been in obvious pain due to severe swelling of her joints. Zoo officials have played down her condition, with one saying it is “very normal in captive animals”. Judging from recent images of the poor animal’s suffering, it is clear that something needs to be done urgently. KMC, which runs the zoo, has at last given permission to foreign vets from Four Paws International — an animal rights group — to come and treat Nur Jehan, who is one of two elephants at the facility. In 2021, a Four Paws team had come to Karachi and inspected all four elephants in the metropolis — two of which are at the Safari Park. It had recommended that the elephants at the zoo also be moved to the other site, as at their present location they were in distress from the constant traffic noise.
To keep elephants in captivity is an act of extreme cruelty, something that is being recognised the world over. Scientific evidence proves these magnificent creatures are among the most intelligent and social animals. Elephants comfort each other when in distress, and are known to be “co-operative problem solvers”. They even mourn their dead in what appears to be ritualistic behaviour. Now consider the existence of Nur Jehan, restricted in a barren enclosure entirely unsuitable for her species-specific needs. She and Madhubala, the other elephant at the zoo, must be moved to Safari Park as soon as possible so they can be reunited with others of their kind. There they must have avenues for enrichment such a swimming facility; and staff must be trained with an elephant protected contact wall.
Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2023