Pakistani experts cite lack of equipment after international vets determine ‘male’ elephant is female

Caretakers stand next to African elephants during a visit by the veterinarians of Four Paws International to conduct the medical assessment of elephants at the Safari Park in Karachi on November 28, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 06 December 2021

Pakistani experts cite lack of equipment after international vets determine ‘male’ elephant is female

  • Team of international vets last Sunday found elephant listed as male at Karachi’s Safari Park was female 
  • Karachi Zoo and Safari Park senior director says Sonu too young for gender to be determined properly 

KARACHI: A Pakistani expert, who assisted a team of international veterinarians in assessing the health of four elephants in Pakistan’s Karachi city, has said Pakistan did not have the equipment to ascertain the gender of elephants.

Last week, a team of international veterinarians and wildlife experts examined four elephants in Karachi and reported that one of the elephants needed a “complicated” surgery to remove damaged and infected tusks. A second elephant had dental problems and a medical issue with a foot, according to the vets dispatched by international animal advocacy Four Paws.

The visit came months after the Sindh High Court (SHC) granted permission to Dr. Frank Goritz, the head veterinarian at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), to visit Pakistan to inspect the health of four African elephants: Malika and Sonu at Karachi’s Safari Park, and Noor Jehan and Madhubala at the Karachi Zoo. The order was passed after animal rights activists moved the court following a viral video that revealed cracks in Malika’s foot. 

In its preliminary report submitted to the court on November 30, the team recommended medical interventions and also revealed that Sonu, which Pakistani authorities had listed as male, was actually a female elephant. 

Dr. Isma Gheewala, who assisted the international team, told Arab News it was not possible to ascertain the gender of an elephant with the equipment available in Pakistan and only international experts could do it using specialized tools. 

“If Pakistan is keeping wildlife, it is the responsibility of our government to provide tools and medicine required for the screening and treatment of animals, which are currently not available in the country,” Gheewala said, adding that even the international team, which included the world’s most highly qualified experts in elephant reproduction and treatment, couldn’t have ascertained the gender of the elephants without conducting a special screening. 

“How could local vets ascertain the gender without having access to advanced diagnostic and screening tools,” the expert asked, explaining that elephants do not have exposed genitals outside their bodies. “The specialist who came here used a very long ultrasound probe. In this examination, they discovered that the animal had ovaries and a uterus and no testicles. Without this special equipment there is no way to figure it out.”

Pakistan, Gheewala said, didn’t even have the necessary medicines to sedate elephants for the test, or to reverse the sedation.

Mansoor Kazi, a Karachi Zoo and Safari Park senior director, said Sonu was only 16 years old and elephant genitalia became more evident as the animal neared full adulthood. 

Elephants often continue to grow in size and weight until they’re about 20 years old. Males might fill out for a bit longer, but by age 25, both males and females are at their full size and strength

“Sonu has been in the Safari Park for the last 11 years and our veterinarians haven’t noticed its menstrual cycles. Sonu has behaved completely differently from its partner, Malika, as far as its cycles are concerned,” Kazi told Arab News, citing former vet Dr. Syed Kazim Hussain, who has been looking after the animals since they were imported to Pakistan in 2010. 

All four elephants were imported by an animal trader, Irfan Ahmed, who had said he had captured three females and one male elephant aged 2 to 3. 

“Our very experienced veterinarian Dr. Syed Kazim Hussain has been closely monitoring the animals. Sonu has a male reproductive organ and we strongly believe that once the elephant reaches its complete adulthood, its gender will be clearer,” Kazi added. 

In their report, however, the international experts wrote that “Elephant ‘Sonu’ presented as a male turned out proven female.” The experts ultrasonographically visualized its uterus and inactive ovaries, the report said. 

“However, an oversized clitoris has been palpated inside the vestibulum, which is getting exposed very often by Sonu as reported by local staff. Latter may explain the assumption to see a penis and could be indicative of a hormonal imbalance. Measurements of female and male sexual hormones in the blood scrum are still pending,” the report said. 

The focus on Karachi’s four African elephants comes a year after Kaavan, called the “world’s loneliest elephants,” was released from a ramshackle, now-closed zoo in Islamabad. Animal rights activists had campaigned against the plight of 35-year-old Kaavan, the last remaining Asian elephant in the country, who had lived alone since the death of his mate eight years earlier. 

Kaavan was transferred to Cambodia in November last year in a blaze of publicity after his plight caught the attention of US superstar Cher, who helped raise funds for the jumbo relocation. 

Owais Awan, an animal rights activist who pleaded the case for Kaavan’s relocation and is also a co-petitioner in the case to examine the Karachi elephants by international experts, said whatever the reason for the misgendering, it indicated that local authorities did not have the required expertise, tools and medicines to deal with wildlife they were keeping at Pakistani facilities. 

“We need to enhance our expertise and capacity,” Awan said, “and ensure that we have proper tools and medicine to treat elephants.” 

Pakistan imported over $2 billion of coronavirus vaccines – information minister

Updated 13 sec ago

Pakistan imported over $2 billion of coronavirus vaccines – information minister

  • Chaudhry Fawad Hussain says unvaccinated people are suffering more due to the spread of the omicron variant
  • Pakistan reported over 5,000 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, taking the ICU occupancy rate up by 30 percent

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said on Tuesday the country had imported over $2 billion of coronavirus vaccines to protect people from the debilitating respiratory disease amid a rising current account deficit.

Addressing a news conference after the federal cabinet meeting, he said the government examined the COVID-19 situation caused by the spread of the omicron strain.

Pakistan's top pandemic response body announced earlier in the day the country had reported 5,034 new cases of coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, taking the overall positivity ratio to 9.45 percent. It also informed that 827 COVID-19 patients were in critical care across Pakistan.

Hussain told the media the federal cabinet evaluated the pandemic situation along with the official vaccination campaign.

"Pakistan has imported more than $2 billion of vaccines to immunize its people," he said. "The import of medicine had a major impact on our current account deficit as well."

The minister emphasized it was important to get vaccinated amid rising number of new infections.

"Those who are fully vaccinated and have received booster shots are only negligibly affected by omicron," he continued. "However, those who are not inoculated are suffering from this strain a lot more."

According to a statement released by the Prime Minister Office after the meeting, the country's planning minister Asad Umar gave a detailed briefing to the federal cabinet on the spread of the omicron variant, saying the number of current cases had increased to 5,000 per day while the hospitalization rate had increased by 2.5 times.

He added that the number of patients had gone up by 30 percent in intensive care units in Pakistan.

The statement said the cabinet called for ensuring the implementation of healthcare guidelines in the country, including the use of face masks and vaccinations to prevent the spread of the omicron variant.

"However, the cabinet reiterated its commitment that the government would refrain from taking steps that would harm business and economic activity," it added.


Government says central bank autonomy not without checks and balances

Updated 57 min 59 sec ago

Government says central bank autonomy not without checks and balances

  • The IMF wanted Pakistan to grant maximum independence to the central bank to end any possible political interference
  • A senior Pakistani minister says the oversight mechanism was built into the law after ‘hard negotiations’ with the lending agency

ISLAMABAD: A senior Pakistani minister on Tuesday criticized the opposition for making a legislation regarding the central bank’s autonomy controversial, saying the new law was not without checks and balances which were incorporated after “hard negotiations” with the International Monetary Fund.
The law was approved by the country’s national assembly last week and was enacted on the international financial institution’s insistence which had been demanding it to protect the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) from any political interference.
The IMF executive board is scheduled to review Pakistan’s progress in terms of the implementation of structural reforms under a $6 billion loan program and may release another tranche of $1 billion later this month.
Pakistan’s energy minister Hammad Azhar told a news conference in Islamabad that central banks were always kept autonomous in the world since there was enough evidence that it allowed developed nations to bring down inflation and ensure economic growth.
“The federal government will appoint the central bank’s board of directors whose members can even remove the state bank governor,” he said, adding: “We managed to secure this concession of appointing the state bank board along with its governor and deputy governor from the IMF after hard negotiations.”
Azhar maintained previous administrations tried to influence central bank officials while dictating them how to manage the county’s monetary policy.
He added a similar bill was also suggested in 2015 by the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party wherein it was willing to surrender all its powers to the central bank board.
The minister noted the government had brought about a comprehensive reform in the area which was also “demanded by serious Pakistani economists for a substantially long period.”
Refuting the opposition’s criticism over the law, he said it was only going to strengthen the country’s economy and ensure sustained growth momentum.

Oman’s naval chief meets Pakistani general, discusses military cooperation

Updated 18 January 2022

Oman’s naval chief meets Pakistani general, discusses military cooperation

  • General Nadeem Raza says defense cooperation between the two countries will have a positive impact on regional peace and security
  • Pakistan and Oman signed a memorandum of understanding in October 2020 to enhance military cooperation

ISLAMABAD: Commander Royal Navy of Oman Rear Admiral Saif bin Nasser bin Mohsen Al-Rahbi on Tuesday met with Pakistan’s Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Nadeem Raza in Rawalpindi and discussed ways of improving bilateral military cooperation, the military’s media wing, ISPR, said in a statement.
A day earlier, the Omani official held a meeting with Pakistan’s Naval Chief Admiral Muhammad Amjad Khan Niazi in Islamabad to discuss bilateral defense ties.
Pakistan and Oman have always maintained a close relationship and the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to increase military cooperation in October 2020.
In his meeting with General Raza, Al-Rahbi discussed “security and regional issues and matters related to enhancing the level and scope of bilateral military engagements and cooperation in various fields between the two brotherly countries,” the ISPR read.
The statement noted that General Raza “emphasized the need to further enhance the existing defense and security cooperation and said that Pakistan-Oman cooperation will have a positive impact on peace and security in the region.”
“The visiting dignitary remained appreciative of the role of the Pakistan Armed Forces in building the capacity of Oman Armed Forces. He also acknowledged the sacrifices made by Pakistan in the war against terrorism,” it added.
Last week, Pakistani naval ships Rah Naward and Madadgar visited Oman’s Port Sultan Bin Qaboos along with Hamza submarine as part of overseas deployment.
“During the port stay, various bilateral activities including exchange visits onboard afloat units, orientation visits of military installations and coordination meetings were undertaken,” the Pakistan Navy said.

Pakistani policeman, two suspects killed in Islamabad ‘terrorism incident’ 

Updated 18 January 2022

Pakistani policeman, two suspects killed in Islamabad ‘terrorism incident’ 

  • Outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has claimed responsibility for the ‘attack’ near the city’s famous G-9 market 
  • TTP is a separate group from the Afghan Taliban and has fought for years to overthrow the government in Islamabad 

ISLAMABAD: A policeman and two suspects were killed in a shootout in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad late Monday, in what the country’s interior minister described as a “terrorism incident.”
Two assailants opened fire at police officers standing guard near a market in G-9 sector, the police said, which triggered a shootout that killed an officer and both gunmen. Two policemen were injured in the attack, who were shifted to hospital.
Pakistani Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Tuesday said the deceased suspects were “terrorists” and the shootout was actually an attack.
“Munawwar Shaheed, head constable, was on duty and the terrorists opened a burst on him. This wasn’t a burglary or robbery,” Ahmed said.

Pakistan's Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed places a wrath on the coffin of a policeman who lost his life in a gun attack in Islamabad on January 18, 2022. (Islamabad Police)

“This is a kind of a signal we have got that terrorism incidents have begun in Islamabad. This is the first incident of this year and we need to be very alert.”

He said the authorities had located the "terrorist sleeper cell" in Misrial, a Rawalpindi neighborhood some 20 kilometers from Islamabad.

“This is purely a terrorism issue,” Ahmed added.

Policemen pay tribute beside the coffin of a police officer who was killed in an overnight gunmen attack during the funeral ceremony in Islamabad on January 18, 2022. (AFP)

Militants have often targeted security forces in Pakistan’s southern Balochistan and northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, but attacks like this have been a rarity in Islamabad.
The Pakistani Taliban, or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the “attack” in a statement.
The TTP is a separate movement from the Afghan Taliban and has fought for years to overthrow the government in Islamabad and rule with its own brand of Islamic Shariah law.
Last month, the group declared an end to a month-long cease-fire arranged with the aid of the Afghan Taliban, accusing the Pakistan government of breaching terms including a prisoner release agreement and the formation of negotiating committees.

Pakistani PM's aide visits UAE embassy in display of solidarity after Houthi attack 

Updated 18 January 2022

Pakistani PM's aide visits UAE embassy in display of solidarity after Houthi attack 

  • Tahir Ashrafi says they consider security and stability of UAE as Pakistan's security and stability 
  • UAE ambassador offers condolences over the death of a Pakistani in Houthi attack on Abu Dhabi 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s aide on the Middle East Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi on Tuesday visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) embassy in Islamabad to express solidarity with the brotherly country a day after a drone attack on its capital, Abu Dhabi, by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi militia.

Houthi rebels on Monday attacked the Emirati capital with missiles and drones, setting off explosions in fuel trucks that killed three people, including a Pakistani national, and injured six others, and causing a fire close to the Abu Dhabi airport.

“The UAE is Pakistan's strongest friend and brother. [We] consider the security and stability of the UAE as Pakistan's security and stability,” Ashrafi told UAE Ambassador Hamad Obaid Al-Zaabi.

“No force can weaken Pakistan-UAE relations,” the Pakistani PM's aide said.

Ambassador Al-Zaabi conveyed condolences from the UAE leadership over the killing of the Pakistani national, who was working for the Emirati oil giant, ADNOC.

“The injured are being fully treated and the UAE foreign ministry is in touch with the Pakistani embassy,” the UAE ambassador was quoted as saying in a statement issued from the office of the Pakistani PM's aide.

Ambassador Al-Zaabi thanked Pakistan for its solidarity and cooperation with the UAE.

Besides being a brotherly country, the UAE is also Pakistan’s largest trading partner in the Middle East and a major source of investment in the South Asian country.

Around 1.6 million Pakistani expatriates in the UAE contributed remittances of more than $6 billion in the last financial year.