KARACHI, Dec 11: Efforts are under way at the Zoological Gardens Karachi to save the life of a lone Shetland pony suffering from various medical complications, including a severe form of arthritis.

The animal is the only one of its species left in the zoo. There used to be two pairs of the species at the zoo, but over the past 10 to 12 years, all of them died, sources said. The surviving pony was born to one of the pairs at the zoo a few years ago while a newborn pony died soon after its birth, they added.

“This pony was shifted to the Landhi-Korangi zoo some time ago where the staff didn’t look after it well. No veterinary surgeon was posted at the Korangi zoo at that time and the staff reported the case only when the animal’s condition deteriorated to the extent that it wasn’t able to stand on its feet and lost its appetite,” a zoo staff member told Dawn. The poor animal has been under treatment at the zoo’s dispensary for 15 days.

During a visit to the zoo, the animal was found eating fodder. Although it could stand on its feet now, it was still trembling.

The presence of such a species known to live in harsh colder weather conditions at the zoo, in this part of the world, also left one wonder about the zoo officials’ criteria for animal selection.

It was also painful to note that the number of animals either living alone or without their male or female mates had increased over the years.

They included two male Bengal tigers, a lion, a leopardess, a male zebra, a female bear, a male Arabian oryx and a male langur captured in Nagarparkar, Tharparkar district, a few years ago.

A female Bactrian camel that lost its mate and a baby several months ago was also found alone in an enclosure.

The zoo hasn’t been able to shift the Arabian oryx to an enclosure and it was still confined to a small space in the deer enclosure.

Speaking to Dawn, Dr Kazim Hussain, additional director, Safari Park, who has been given the additional charge of looking after the Karachi zoo following the suspension of its chief in the lion cubs’ case, said the pony was being given anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medicines.

“The pony’s major problem is arthritis, which is quite common in horse family. The pony’s condition has much improved and it would hopefully recover,” added Dr Hussain.

He, however, contended that the pony was born in the Safari Park in 2003 and was shifted to the Landhi-Korangi zoo. The Safari Park still had a pair of Shetland pony and all the pony species at the zoo and the park were of American breed, he said.

Replying to a question, he said it was because of the concerns regarding the Shetland pony’s specific habitat that no more species were brought. The pair at the Safari Park, unfortunately, had not bred, he added.

The Landh-Korangi zoo, he said, now had a full-time vet and the zoo, too, would also have a full-time vet.

About the lone species, he said the director-general of the zoo had ordered the purchase of new animals while the Arabian oryx would soon be shifted to a proper enclosure after shifting some of the deer species to the Safari Park.

He agreed to the concerns regarding the growing age of old animals and that some might react negatively to efforts of pairing at this stage of life. He said that such factors would surely be look into before finding their mates.

“However, I believe that even if some of them won’t be able to live together, they would definitely feel happier by just looking at someone of their own species in a nearby enclosure,” he said.

The zoo and the Safari Park have been facing a serious shortage of staff for many years.

The problem’s severity can be gauged from the fact that Mr Hussain is currently looking after his administrative responsibilities at the zoo and the Safari Park besides acting as a vet at these places.