Zoo workers cover the body of Saheli, the female elephant which died in Manghazar zoo, Islamabad. - Online

ISLAMABAD: Saheli, the female elephant in the city’s Marghazar Zoo, died on Tuesday, leaving her male mate Kawan, who kept watch on her as she writhed in pain in one of her legs for two weeks, all alone.

Zoo staff found it too unwieldy to transport her carcass to the Veterinary Laboratory at Chak Shahzad for the postmortem to determine the real cause of her death. So, the staff packed the carcass in ice for vets to conduct postmortem on Wednesday.

Children and other admirers of Saheli would be able to see her after some time in bones only at the Pakistan Museum of Natural History, a zoo official told Dawn.

A team from the natural history museum arrived at the zoo on hearing of her death and applied salt all over her body to save her skin from drying and shrinking.

After the postmortem, Saheli would be skinned and the body put in lots of salt for four weeks for the flesh to dissolve, leaving her a bare skeleton.

Saheli, the most popular animal in the zoo, had been in pain for two weeks, with Kawan standing by her side all the time as to give her comfort. On Sunday, she fell on the ground and did not rise again on her feet despite all the efforts by the zoo administration and veterinary officials.

Director Marghazar Zoo Syed Sajjad Hussain Shah while talking to Dawn said during the postmortem the medical team would try to find out the cause of the death.“I had a doubt that the elephant might have been poisoned, so urine samples were sent to the laboratory on Sunday but as the team got only one working day because of Sunday and the Labour Day, the report could not be finalised. During postmortem, some other samples will also be taken to find out the cause of its death,” he said.

An official of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) on the condition of anonymity added: “The average life of an elephant is 70 years and usually they live for over 100 years. Saheli was just 22 years old and her death is not only a big loss for the residents of the federal capital but also for the civic agency because now international animal rights organisations will put a check on Pakistani zoos and no one would donate us that kind of precious animals because we have created an impression that we do not have the capability to properly handle and care animals.”

On the other hand, the CDA bosses have put the responsibility for the death of the animal on the lower staff to save the zoo officers. A press release issued on Tuesday by the CDA stated: “Chairman Engineer Farkhand Iqbal has directed an inquiry into the incident which will be headed by member administration Shaukat Ali Mohmand. He also suspended two officials of the zoo - head Mohawat (caretaker) Bilal and Mohawat Faiz Mohammad - who were deputed to look after the animal.”

The director zoo said the female elephant was found lying on the lateral side early morning. All the zoo officers and staff reached the elephant closure. The zoo veterinary officer examined the animal clinically and found it active and healthy and said it was taking food and water.

Dr Masudul Haq, the consultant zoo, was consulted for the treatment and efforts were made to get the animal stand up.  He said intensive treatment was provided to the animal.

According to sources, eight persons - Bilal, Saeed Mohammad, Mohammad Jalal, Mohammad Faiz, Adeel Iqbal, Riaz and Arshad Irshad - were taking care of the elephant.

In 2008, when a zebra died in the zoo, a deputy director and the zoo supervisor were suspended but it is strange that with the death of the elephant only two lower officials have been suspended.

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