Zoo Director Kanwar Ayub says two elephants at Safari Park are healthy.—White Star/file
Zoo Director Kanwar Ayub says two elephants at Safari Park are healthy.—White Star/file

KARACHI: Despite getting treatment for potentially fatal blood parasites a few weeks ago, zoo elephant Madhubala has again tested positive for the same germs, it emerged on Saturday.

Sources told Dawn that the lone 18-year-old African elephant in Karachi Zoo was detected to have the same life-threatening blood parasitic infections that earlier affected her partner, Noor Jehan, who met a tragic death on April 22.

Both Noor Jehan and Madhubala, along with a pair of elephants currently housed at Safari Park, were brought together to Karachi 14 years ago from Tanzania, where they were caught and separated from their mother at a very young age.

“Madhubala has again tested positive for Trypanosoma brucei and piroplasms,” shared a zoo official on the condition of anon

Zoo director says work under way to replace soil, repair broken sewage lines

He added that the germs were transmitted by tsetse flies and ticks.

The sources said the experts at the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS), Lahore, who tested the blood samples, had recommended continuation of Madhubala’s treatment with the same medicines.

It might be recalled that the zoo’s lionesses, Sara and Patriata, were also found to have blood parasitic infections last month. Both had been suffering from unknown illnesses for a long time, resulting in a loss of appetite and weight. They were tested after the foreign experts’ team visited the zoo for elephant Noor Jehan’s examination and expressed concern over the health of other zoo animals as well.

According to sources, the major reason for animal disease and death at the zoo is the extreme unhygienic environment animals are forced to live in and a lack of a species-appropriate environment.

The soil in the zoo’s enclosures, the sources said, was a host to all sorts of parasites and flies as it had hardly ever been disinfected or replaced with fresh earth.

According to the sources, all zoo animals suffered from multiple illnesses, and the zoo didn’t have qualified, competent staff.

“The blood parasites affecting scores of zoo animals are common but too dangerous. Treating them is tougher than preventing the infection. Hence, animals should be screened for major diseases periodically and accordingly vaccinated, as it is the practice in other parts of the world,” a senior vet associated with a private firm advised.

Speaking to Dawn, Zoo Director Kanwar Ayub confirmed that Madhubala hadn’t been cleared of the infections.

“But she has fewer numbers of parasites now, and we are hoping that she will be free of these infections soon after getting more doses of the medicines prescribed by her doctors,” he said.

He, however, rejected the information that the lionesses were also infected with blood parasites. “They only have a skin disease for which they are getting treatment,” he said

Mr Ayub agreed that the zoo had been neglected for a long time and that immediate steps were needed to ensure that animals were able to live in a clean environment.

“A drive is under way to disinfect the zoo, replace the soil, and repair the broken sewerage lines,” he said, adding: “Also, I plan to call a meeting of the vets on our panel and make a strategy for animal welfare.”

About the pair of elephants at Safari Park, Mr Ayub emphasised that they are healthy and only required the foot care that they had received.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2023

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