Noor Jehan undergoes complex medical procedures

Published April 6, 2023
Members of the Four Paws’ team prepare ailing elephant Noor Jehan for sedation; (right) Dr Frank Göritz from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin draws blood for analysis at Karachi Zoological Gardens on Wednesday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
Members of the Four Paws’ team prepare ailing elephant Noor Jehan for sedation; (right) Dr Frank Göritz from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin draws blood for analysis at Karachi Zoological Gardens on Wednesday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: Zoo elephant Noor Jehan was found to be suffering from serious but treatable health problems, including a big injury on the head and a large hematoma inside the abdomen, following a five-hour-long process of critical diagnosis carried out by Four Paws’ team at the zoo on Wednesday.

“The good news is that Noor Jehan has hope. We now believe her chances of survival are 70 per cent and she could live for several years,” Dr Amir Khalil leading the seven-member team of international experts working for animal welfare group told Dawn.

The day was tough both for the ailing elephant as she was kept standing under partial sedation with the help of a crane, as well as for the team that conducted an endoscopy, ultrasound and blood tests.

The poor animal had been in pain for over three months now, rendering her weak and partially paralysed, forcing the concerned authorities to seek help from the international animal welfare group.

Dr Khalil believes elephant’s survival chance is now 70pc

“There was a moment during the procedure when we nearly lost Noor Jehan under sedation as she fell down. We had to use the crane to bring her in the standing position again and use medication to reverse the process of anaesthesia to wake her up,” Dr Khalil shared, while explaining that since Noor Jehan had gone too weak due to illness, the vets had feared that she might die if sedated.

About the findings of his team — Dr Marina Ivanova from Bulgaria, Dr Frank Göritz, Prof Thomas Hildebrandt and Mathias Otto from Germany and Pia Einheimler from Austria — Dr Khalil said the 17-year-old elephant was found to have a serious injury on her head.

“There was a big trauma on her head that might have occurred in the last three months, causing bleeding and a big hematoma inside the abdomen.

“Also, we believe that her pelvic membrane might have ruptured or dilated, affecting other parts of the body, especially the intestine, putting pressure on the urinary bladder,” he said, adding that Noor Jehan had problem in urination and that the team also detected slight damage to her kidneys.

“But, this damage is in its initial stages and might be addressed with the help of medication. The elephant doesn’t suffer from any fracture on her hind legs and the kind of health problems she currently suffers from can be treated and managed through a holistic approach including use of medication and giving her a lot of physical treatment,” he said.

According to experts, Noor Jehan should not be chained at all and should be provided with regular water massage and a large space to move about so that her recovery could be faster.

“Right now, she isn’t physically ready to be shifted to Safari Park, which needs to be modified to make space for both Noor Jehan and Madhubala. Hence, we will be recommending measures (to the zoo staff) on how the existing elephant enclosure could be modified and enriched to suit animal requirements,” said Dr Khalil.

Earlier in the day, Sindh Governor Kamran Tessori along with Karachi Administrator Dr Saif-ur-Rehman visited the zoo and stayed for several hours, personally observing the procedure.

“There have been serious lapses in animal care at the zoo in the past. On my part, I will try my best to bring about an improvement here by regularly visiting the facility and seeing how its problems could be sorted out,” Governor Tessori said, adding that he would be seeking removal of the zoo director and more funds for the zoo.

The Four Paws’ team is on its fourth visit to the Karachi zoo. In August last year, it performed major tusk surgeries on Noor Jehan and Madhubala, the other female elephant.

In 2021, the team submitted a report to the Sindh High Court, recommending a series of steps on elephants’ welfare, which was approached by a group of citizens worried over animal plight.

The team strongly suggested shifting the zoo elephants to Safari Park, also housing two female elephants, on grounds that the latter facility had reduced noise pollution and provided a better species-specific environment.

Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2023

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