For decades, KMC officials believed female elephant was a 'male'

A team of foreign vets examines four elephants in Karachi
Nov 29, 2021

An ultrasound done by a team of foreign veterinarians has just revealed that both elephants kept at Karachi's Safari Park are female. Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) officials have, for a decade, said that one of the elephants is a male. 

Veterinarian experts from the global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS arrived in Karachi Sunday morning to conduct a medical assessment of four African elephants at the Karachi Zoo and Safari Park.

The Sindh High Court, at a hearing on November 15, requested the animal welfare experts to assess the wellbeing and health condition of the animals. Earlier, Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) filed a petition against KMC for, what they called, their brutal and dismal treatment of the elephants.  

The team of experts comprises Dr Amir Khalil, Dr Frank Göritz, and Prof Thomas Hildebrandt from the Leibnitz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) and Dr Marina Ivanova from FOUR PAWS. The team worked closely with the KMC officials. 

The team of veterinarians from Four Paws

“We are grateful for the trust of the Sindh High Court in our expertise and happy to support the authorities in making sure these elephants receive species-appropriate care,” says FOUR PAWS veterinarian Dr Khalil.  

“We will perform medical examinations on all four elephants, check their feet, and assess their keeping conditions. We are also bringing medicine and equipment and are ready to treat the elephants in case any urgent medical action is needed. We hope to support the national authorities in finding a species-appropriate solution for these elephants,” he added. 

Dr Khalil said that FOUR PAWS was ready to also provide assistance and help to other animals at the zoos if needed and permitted by the local authorities. 

After the assessment, the FOUR PAWS experts will present their recommendations to the court who will take the outcomes into further consideration – a process that can take up to multiple years until a decision is made. 

Elephants’ assessment by the vets 

After landing in Karachi, the team first left for the Zoo where they visited the enclosures of the elephants - Noor Jahan and Madhubala. The team inspected the elephants and talked to their caretaker Yousuf. He informed the vets that the elephants are fed twice a day. 

Yousuf added that the elephants were between two to 2.5 years old when they were brought to the zoo in 2009. They were sold by a contractor, named Irfan Ahmed.

After the initial assessments, the doctors suspected one of the elephants at the Zoo has a tooth infection.

The team then arrived at the Safari Parks where the other two elephants, Sonu and Malika, are being kept. The team found the condition of their enclosure at the park "deplorable”. 

The doctors assessed the feet, collected the blood samples, and conducted the ultrasound of the elephants.

The experts have done a detailed assessment of the elephants and did some scans, ultrasounds, and x-rays. 

At the Park, the team found the tail of one of the elephants to be docked. Docking is the intentional removal of part of an animal's tail, or, sometimes, ears. The management was unaware of the docking. 

Dr Amir Khalil has said that physically, the animals look fine.

"The doctors have conducted multiple tests and taken blood samples of the elephants to determine [their health conditions]. All their organs will be checked as well as their behavior and eating habits," said Dr Khalil.

Dr Amir Khalil, a member of Four Paws veterinarian team updating about the condition of the elephants
Dr Amir Khalil, a member of Four Paws veterinarian team updating about the condition of the elephants

He pointed out that although the space for elephants at the Safari Park is satisfactory, the problem lies in their enrichment.

According to Dr Khalil, three things are important during the assessment:

  • the animals
  • the caretaker
  • their space/enclosure

A KMC official, on the other hand, said that they welcome all the recommendations from the experts and aim to work on them.

The last four African elephants 

The four elephants were brought from Tanzania to Pakistan 11 years ago. Their ages are between 12 and 14. 

Earlier this year, videos of the elephants surfaced showing that they had broken nails, cracked tusks, swollen legs, and damaged feet. Following this, an international animal rights group, the Pro Elephant Network, called for emergency medical assistance. KMC had, however, claimed it had treated them after applying petroleum jelly to their feet. 

After the videos emerged, animal activists have taken the KMC to the court for its ‘inhuman’ and ‘negligent treatment' of the four elephants.  

The KMC was accused, in a petition filed in March-end, of neglecting the four elephants at Karachi Zoo and the Safari Park, keeping them chained in small enclosures (compared to international standards), and denying them medical care.  

Animal abuse in Pakistan 

Abuse of animal rights became a topic of discussion among Pakistanis after the plight of Kaavan, the sole elephant at Islamabad Zoo, was highlighted by activists and social workers. 

Kaavan is a 36-year-old extinct-breed Asiatic elephant that the Sri Lankan government gifted to Pakistan in 1985. The animal was being kept at Islamabad’s Marghazar Zoo where he had been alone in his enclosure from 2012 when his female companion, Saheli, died at 22.

An online petition garnered over 200,000 signatures after it emerged he was being chained, was suffering from mental illnesses, and will have a bleak future without a better habitat even if a new mate arrives. 

Kaavan’s plight was given a boost over the years by American pop icon Cher, who publicly campaigned for the elephant’s relocation and called the eventual decision to move him to a new location as one of the “greatest moments” of her life. 

Kaavan was moved to a sanctuary in Cambodia on the orders of the Islamabad High Court. The court also ordered authorities to move all animals out of the Marghazar Zoo because of the frequent mistreatment of animals. 

Kaavan was the last Asian elephant in captivity in Pakistan. According to official information, these elephants are also the last four African elephants in Pakistan. 

Sindh High Court

animal rights

Karachi Zoo

safari park

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