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.” 

PIA to begin Hajj flight operations from May 31

Updated 3 sec ago

PIA to begin Hajj flight operations from May 31

  • Hajj flights to take off from eight Pakistani cities and land in Jeddah and Madinah
  • Pakistan’s quota of pilgrims this year is 81,132 as one million people join this year’s Hajj

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will start this year’s Hajj flight operations from May 31, PIA announced on Thursday, as Saudi Arabia lets up to one million people join the Hajj pilgrimage this year, greatly expanding it to participants from outside the kingdom after two years of tight COVID restrictions.

Pilgrims to Makkah this year must be under age 65 and fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the ministry of Hajj and Umrah said in a statement last month. Pakistan’s quota of pilgrims this year is 81,132 and the maximum age limit of travellers is 65.

“PIA's flight operation will continue with 297 flights from May 31 to August 13," Pakistan’s national flag carrier said in a statement. “Hajj operation will be carried out from 8 cities of Pakistan, Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Multan, Peshawar and Quetta.”

PIA said the Hajj flights to Saudi Arabia would fly to Jeddah and Madinah.

Saudi Arabia has said participants from abroad must present a recent negative COVID PCR test, and health precautions will be observed.

Last year, the kingdom limited the annual Hajj, one of Islam's five main pillars, to 60,000 domestic participants, compared to the pre-pandemic 2.5 million.

After knowledge portal, Pakistan-China business body plans technology transfer gateway

Updated 22 min 27 sec ago

After knowledge portal, Pakistan-China business body plans technology transfer gateway

  • Nearly 3,000 people have benefitted from the knowledge portal set up last year
  • New online gateway aims to facilitate technology transfer from China

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan-China Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCJCCI) said on Thursday nearly 3,000 people had benefitted from a knowledge portal established last year to facilitate businesses in the two countries and was now planning to set up an online technology gateway.

The chamber was established in 2013 to promote investment and commerce between Pakistan and China and protect the interests of business entities in both countries.

The two regional allies had also launched the multibillion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the same year under which Beijing pledged over $60 billion for infrastructure and development projects in Pakistan.

“The PCJCCI initiated the first-ever knowledge portal on October 7, 2021, and almost 3,000 people have benefited through this portal so far,” the chamber’s president Wang Zihai told Arab News in a written reply from Beijing.

The knowledge portal contains information on projects and economic collaboration between the two countries and offers registration facilities to companies along with immigration information.

After the "success" of the portal, Zihai said, a Pak-China technology gateway would now be established.

Ehsan Chaudhry, the chamber’s senior vice president, said the gateway would transfer technology no longer used in China to Pakistan to be used for the South Asian country’s industrial requirements.

“The acquisition of appropriate technology from China in the field of renewable energy and alternative sources of energy, such as solar, nanotechnology, wind power, run of the river power plants, will be our top priority,” he told Arab News.

“Pakistan can import traditional machinery from China at a low cost because our labors are much friendly with low-key advanced technology,” he added, without sharing when the technology gateway would be operational. 

Salahuddin Hanif, the chamber’s secretary general, said the joint Pakistan-China body had initiated various Chinese language courses to remove communication barrier between the two nations.

“Around 25,000 students actively participated in these courses,” he told Arab News. “We have also compiled and published various books for making the learning process more comprehensive for Pakistani people.”

Hanif said the chamber was working to encourage Chinese industrialists to collaborate with Pakistan, adding that new courses would soon be announced on the knowledge portal.

“We are going to launch various courses very soon to convey contemporary knowledge and information related to various sectors," Hanif said, "like electronic and automotive advancement, insurance, agriculture, textiles, shoe manufacturing, chemicals, battery recycling plant, and real estate advisory.”

Pakistan raises fuel prices after inconclusive IMF talks in Doha

Updated 26 May 2022

Pakistan raises fuel prices after inconclusive IMF talks in Doha

  • Finance minister Miftah Ismail says the government has increased petroleum prices by Rs30 per liter
  • Pakistan hopes to reach a staff level agreement with the IMF for the resumption of $6 billion loan facility

KARACHI: Pakistan’s finance minister Miftah Ismail announced on Thursday the government had decided to increase fuel prices by Rs30 per liter after his negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the resumption of a $6 billion loan package remained inconclusive due to subsidies on petroleum products.

The subsidies were part of a relief package provided by former prime minister Imran Khan in February amid rising inflation which he said was going to cost over $2 billion between April and June 2022. The IMF had objected over his decision while refusing to release the next loan installment of about $1 billion.

Pakistan desperately needs external financing to boost its falling foreign exchange reserves which, at the current level of $10 billion, can barely cover two months of import payments. The new government has been seeking the IMF support since assuming the political power of the country, though it remained reluctant to meet the stringent terms and conditions of the international lending agency.

“The government has decided to protect the poor and its details will soon be announced by the prime minister himself in an address to the nation,” Ismail told a news conference in Islamabad. “I have only come here to tell you that the government has decided that from Friday, 27th of May, the prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene oil and light diesel oil will be increased by Rs30 per liter.”

He said that the new price of petrol and diesel would be Rs179.86 and Rs174.15 per liter, respectively.

Ismail hoped the government’s decision would help stabilize markets.

“It will also stabilize the rupee and improve the situation at the stock market,” he continued. “Most importantly, it will bring back some balance within the economy.”

The finance minister maintained it was a difficult decision since increased fuel prices would to negatively impact the government’s political capital.

However, he added it was the right move for the country since it was important for everyone to know that the new administration was truly determined to fix Pakistan’s economic woes.

Responding to a question, he said he was optimistic that Pakistan would soon reach a staff level agreement with the IMF.

The finance minister discussed the possibility of increasing the size of the loan by another $2 billion for an extended period of one year during his meetings with IMF officials in Washington in April.

He later told journalists in the US that the resumption of IMF loan program would also help unlock more funding from multilateral donors.

In the absence of a breakthrough in recent talks with the international lending agency in Doha, however, Pakistan’s national currency hit another all-time low of Rs202.01 against the greenback on Thursday due to increasing demand for the US dollar for import payments.

Pakistani economists criticized the government for not taking tough decisions earlier in the day, saying its indecisiveness was further aggravating the economic crisis.

“With reserves continuing to slide and no signal from the government that it is willing to take tough measures, Pakistan faces a situation where things can very quickly spiral out of control,” Uzair Younus, who works with Pakistan Initiative at Washington-based Atlantic Council, told Arab News. “Once herd mentality kicks in, it will be even more painful to stabilize the economy.”

Four-time champions, Pakistan fail to qualify for Hockey World Cup 2023

Updated 26 May 2022

Four-time champions, Pakistan fail to qualify for Hockey World Cup 2023

  • Pakistan crashed out of Asia Cup after India’s convincing 16-0 win over Indonesia
  • The ongoing tournament in Jakarta serves as qualifier for next year’s World Cup

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday failed to qualify for the Fédération Internationale de Hockey (FIH) World Cup 2023 after crashing out of the Asia Cup in the wake of India’s emphatic 16-0 victory over Indonesia, reported the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency.

Once counted among the best hockey teams in the world, Pakistan have won the world cup four times in 1971, 1978, 1981 and 1994.

The last world cup was won by Belgium in 2018.

The green shirts crashed out of the next year’s hockey tournament after they failed to enter the super four stage of the Asia Cup currently played in Jakarta.

“Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia have sealed the FIH World Cup 2023 berths,” the APP said. “India qualify as hosts and Pakistan are out of the race.”

Losing 2-3 to Japan, Pakistan’s fate in the tournament was sealed after India decimated Indonesia to advance into the final four stage of the cup, pushing Pakistan out on goal difference.

Pakistan also failed to qualify for the FIH grand tournament next year since the Asia Cup served as its qualifier.

The green shirts began their Asia Cup bid with a 1-1 draw against India. They thumped Indonesia 13-0 in their next game before losing to Japan.

Inconclusive IMF talks plunge Pakistani currency to Rs202.01 against US dollar

Updated 26 May 2022

Inconclusive IMF talks plunge Pakistani currency to Rs202.01 against US dollar

  • Economists say the government’s inability to take tough decisions is further aggravating the economic crisis
  • Experts warn the situation can spiral out of control if reserves continue to slide in the absence of a viable strategy

KARACHI: Pakistan’s national currency on Thursday plunged to another all-time low of Rs202.01 against the US dollar after the government failed to convince the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Doha, Qatar, to revive a loan program amounting to $6 billion.

The rupee further shed 0.04 percent of its value in the interbank market following the inconclusive talks under the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility (EFF) which the country secured in 2019 to shore up its fragile economy.

“The rupee remains under pressure in the interbank market against the dollar in the absence of major inflows and dwindling forex reserves since the dollar is in high demand for import payments,” Abdul Azeem, head of research at Spectrum Securities, told Arab News.

“The lack of progress in the IMF talks has further exacerbated pressure on the already weakening currency,” he continued.

Fuel subsides remained the main sticking point between the IMF and the Pakistani authorities during their weeklong negotiations, though the country’s finance minister Miftah Ismail still called the discussions “very useful and constructive.”

The subsidies in the oil and power sectors were announced by former prime minister Imran Khan earlier this year who said they would cost over $2 billion between April and June 2022.

“The IMF team emphasised the importance of rolling back fuel & power subsidies, which were given by the previous administration in contravention of its own agreement with the Fund. [The government] is committed to reviving the IMF program & put Pakistan back on a sustainable growth path,” the finance minister said in a Twitter post on Thursday after arriving in Pakistan from Qatar.

“We discussed targets for FY 23, where, in light of high inflation, declining forex reserves and a large current account deficit, we would need to have a tight monetary policy and consolidate our fiscal position,” he added. “Thus [the government] is committed to reducing the budget deficit in FY23.”



Pakistan desperately needs external financing to boost its falling foreign exchange reserves which, at the current level of $10 billion, can barely cover two months of import payments.

The country can immediately secure a release of around $1 billion from the IMF, if it complies with the Fund’s conditions and takes remedial measures like rolling back the subsidies on petroleum products and electricity.

“The crisis of decision making is fast becoming an economic crisis,” Uzair Younus, who works with Pakistan Initiative at Washington-based Atlantic Council, told Arab News.

“With reserves continuing to slide and no signal from the government that it is willing to take tough measures, Pakistan faces a situation where things can very quickly spiral out of control,” he said. “Once herd mentality kicks in, it will be even more painful to stabilize the economy.”

Pakistani economists said the country not only needed fresh inflow of US dollars but also plug financial leakages.

“The shortage of dollar is our main problem,” Dr. Ashfaque Hasan Khan, senior economist and former member of government’s Economic Advisory Council, told Arab News.

“We are earning dollar but there are lot of leakages as well,” he continued. “This means that our imports are too high. If you curb imports through policy measures, then your main problem will be resolved.”

Pakistan’s current account deficit reached $13.78 billion in the first ten months of the current fiscal year, compared with a deficit of $543 million in the same period last year. Higher imports are major contributors to the current account deficit.

The government has already banned imports of 38 items, including vehicles, mobile phones and other luxury goods, to cut the swelling import bill.

However, Khan described the move as a “half-hearted measure” which, he said, was only going to save about half a million dollars.

“We should have done an exercise and selected high value, fast moving, and non-essential items for banning,” he said.

Khan maintained all economic indicators were performing perfectly well apart from the balance of payment issue.

He noted that Pakistan had secured six percent real economic growth along with ten and four percent industrial and agricultural growth, respectively.