Two ailing lionesses at a Karachi zoo await treatment since long

Published May 31, 2023
Placed in solitary confinement, the African lioness at zoo is deprived of water in a pond in her enclosure.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
Placed in solitary confinement, the African lioness at zoo is deprived of water in a pond in her enclosure.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: The administration of Karachi Zoological Gardens is yet to start treatment of two lionesses found to be infected with multiple blood parasites last month, it emerged on Monday.

Sources said that African lioness Sara and white lioness Patriata had been suffering from unknown illnesses for a long time, resulting in a loss of appetite and weight.

They said that the major reason for animal disease and death at the zoo was the highly contaminated soil, which had not been replaced with fresh earth for a long time and lack of species-appropriate environment.

“It’s not just the big cats. You won’t find any zoo animal in good condition and this has much to do with the contaminated soil hosting sorts of parasites and other germs, among other factors,” a senior zoo official told Dawn, on the condition of anonymity.

Last month, he said, blood samples were drawn from the two lionesses and sent for analysis to the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS), Lahore, along with samples taken from zoo elephants.

Report by University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences confirms big cats are suffering from tick-borne diseases

“It all happened after the foreign experts’ team visiting the zoo for elephant Noor Jehan’s examination expressed concern over the health of other zoo animals,” the official shared.

He added that the blood samples were drawn by Four Paws’ experts as the zoo vet was not qualified enough to do the job.

The sources said the blood samples’ report prepared by UVAS showed that Noor Jehan, the 16-year-old zoo elephant, and her partner 18-year-old Madhubala, had a deadly but treatable blood parasitic infection (Trypanosomiasis).

While Noor Jehan met a tragic death last month, Madhubala had received some kind of treatment for the illness and now awaits clearance from experts that she is free from the deadly infection.

The source said the lionesses suffered from tick-borne diseases and that the infections had reached a point that they needed treatment, which was suggested in the UVAS report.

Zoo director Kanwar Ayub was contacted multiple times for a statement on lionesses’ health status but he was not available.

Zoo sources, however, alleged that the administration had no interest in these big cats. “They are old and have lost their mates sometime back. There is no chance that the zoo would arrange partners for them,” an official explained.

It might be recalled that the white lioness, reportedly brought to the zoo along with its mate in 2012 from South Africa, was found to be suffering from psoriasis, a long-lasting skin autoimmune disease characterised by abnormal skin, in 2017.

The diagnosis by a private zoo consultant had come about after media reports highlighted the lioness’ plight. At that time, the zoo staff couldn’t even draw blood samples from the sedated lioness in more than an hour.

The African lioness along with its mate was brought to the zoo in 2010 following their seizure by the customs authorities. She lost her mate in 2022 whereas the white lion was reported dead in 2021.

The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), which is responsible for running zoos, had blamed one death on old age and the other on pulmonary tuberculosis.

Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2023

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