Elephant Noor Jehan ‘weak, exhausted’ a day after fall at Karachi Zoo

Published April 14, 2023
The photo shows ailing elephant Noor Jehan propped up on a mound of sand against a tree inside her enclosure at the Karachi Zoo. — Photo by Four Paws
The photo shows ailing elephant Noor Jehan propped up on a mound of sand against a tree inside her enclosure at the Karachi Zoo. — Photo by Four Paws

A day after falling into a pond inside her enclosure at the Karachi Zoo, 17-year-old elephant Noor Jehan was still weak and exhausted on Friday, said Four Paws — an international animal welfare organisation — closely monitoring her.

“Her chances of survival are not high,” Marina Ivanova, senior project manager at Four Paws, told Dawn.com.

Noor Jehan has been lying on a pile of sand against the sole tree inside her cage, looking weaker than ever. Her eyes are barely open and she is hardly making any movement.

The ailing elephant reportedly fell into a cemented pond inside her cage at 7:30am on Thursday and was stuck there for hours, after which a crane along with ropes and belts was used to lift her up.

The photo shows ailing elephant Noor Jehan propped up on a mound of sand against a tree inside her enclosure at the Karachi Zoo. — Photo by Paws
The photo shows ailing elephant Noor Jehan propped up on a mound of sand against a tree inside her enclosure at the Karachi Zoo. — Photo by Paws

Private vets — Dr Shehla Hayat and Dr Otho Zulfiqar — who have volunteered for elephant care at the zoo and are in touch with Four Paws have not left Noor Jehan’s side since yesterday.

Ivanova told Dawn.com that Noor Jehan was still weak and resting, but assured that the team was constantly monitoring, supervising and giving her the best care possible.

She said the elephant was very exhausted after yesterday’s ordeal. “Once she gets a bit more rest, the team on site will try to change her position with the help of a crane again.”

Ivanova went on to say that Noor Jehan’s chances were not high but added that the elephant “is a fighter, and we won’t give up on her”.

Separately, in a statement issued today, Four Paws regretted that the worries for Noor Jehan had increased but at the same time said that she had been provided with emergency medical treatment.

It said that the Four Paws team was working with the local team via video call to find possible solutions to save her.

Earlier, Dr Amir Khalil of Four Paws told Dawn.com that the elephant had been administered a lot of infusions so that she could rest. He said that the teams would try to lift the elephant and make her stand upright today.

However, Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (Paws) founder Mahera Omar — who has been closely working with the team of vets on the ground — said the elephant did not have any energy.

She told Dawn.com that after the elephant’s condition deteriorated, she was continuously administered drips. Omar also stated that a crane was on standby to help lift the elephant up again.

Noor Jehan, who is already an intensive care patient, has been suffering from severe physical trauma for the past three months. The elephant’s muscle mass has shrunk, her spine appears disfigured and her legs appear crooked.

Last week, a group of vets from Four Paws — an international animal welfare organisation — visited Karachi to treat the elephant. During their short trip, they had deduced that the elephant had suffered an injury in the last few months leading to internal bleeding and a hematoma — a collection of blood within a confined tissue space — in her abdomen.

The team had treated the elephant with medicines and complex procedures but had warned before leaving that she needed intense aftercare. They had also given the zoo a set of directions to follow.

However, it appears that the zoo has failed to follow these measures.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant for Strategic Reforms Salman Sufi has said: “We are constantly in touch with the [zoo] administration and they are working hard to enable her to stand again.”

On the other hand, Noor Jehan’s deteriorating health has raised concerns regarding the management of the Karachi Zoo, with netizens calling out the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC).

Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari, daughter of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and former president Asif Ali Zardari, said the Karachi Zoo should be closed down “because it is clearly beyond the capacity of KMC”.

Animal welfare charity Protect All Wildlife said that the Karachi Zoo did not deserve Noor Jehan. “How was this allowed to happen? We are always being told that zoos are about saving and conserving,” it tweeted.

JFK Animal Rescue and Shelter tweeted that the zoo didn’t have adequate equipment.

Free The Wild Director Anika Saleem said zoos were “evil torture chambers” and should immediately be closed.

Animal welfare organisation Free The Wild Global called for continued pressure on the zoo and KMC, saying that they needed to know that the world was watching.

Journalist Alia Chughtai stressed that Pakistan had time and again continued to fail the vulnerable and asked who would be responsible for the mess zoos in Pakistan were in.

“You could be a woman, child, or animal. No one cares enough. But please carry on fighting on TV shows,” she tweeted.

Ayesha Chundrigar, who runs a non-profit animal welfare organisation based in Karachi, called the collapse of Noor Jehan “symbolic of the collapse of our nation”.

“Watching imprisoned animals suffer long painful illnesses that stem from our lack of care while not having a clue on how to fix it,” she said.

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