KARACHI: A team of foreign veterinarians treating an ailing Pakistani elephant have been "optimistic" about the recovery of Noor Jehan, its head said on Friday, as the female African elephant started walking slowly.
The team of vets from FOUR PAWS, a Vienna-based global animal welfare organization, arrived in the southern port city of Karachi on Tuesday to administer care to Noor Jehan at the zoo. Members of the team, who hail from Austria and Egypt, came after videos of the elephant struggling to stand due to swelling in her joints, triggered widespread concerns for her safety.
Noor Jehan—named after the late iconic Pakistani singer—was brought to Pakistan in 2009 with Madhubala and two other elephants after they were caught in Tanzania by an animal trader. Noor Jehan and Madhubala were sent to Karachi Zoo while the other two, Malaika and Sonu, were shifted to the Karachi Safari Park.
After running tests and an initial examination, Dr Amir Khalil, the Egyptian veterinarian heading the team that also includes animal experts, had said the elephant's chances of survival were 50-50. On Friday, the veterinarian said the swelling of Noor Jehan's joints and genitals was much better due to the medication and the animal could now walk slowly.
“There is slight improvement. The swelling has reduced by 50 percent,” Dr Khalil told Arab News. “Also, she can now walk a little slowly. We are optimistic [about her recovery].”
Dr. Khalil worked together with the zoo staff to give hydrotherapy, or water massage, to the elephant. The veterinarian said a member of his team would stay for some more days in Pakistan before the zoo staff could start taking care of the elephant on their own.
Earlier this week, the elephant's diagnosis was carried out with the help of a crane as it could not stand in a stable condition.
On Thursday, the Four Paws team gave mandatory recommendations and guidelines for Noor Jehan’s treatment to the zoo's management.
To give rest to her head and removing weight from her hind limbs, piles of tires and concrete would be built in her enclosure, according to the list of recommendations shared with Arab News. It says the enclosure will also get sand piles around a tree and next to its wall for Noor Jehan to lean and sit as she cannot lay down.
The vets have recommended application of high-pressure water for massaging the muscles of the elephant on a daily basis. The zoo staff have been asked to strictly implement the medication, given diet recommendations and asked to wash and treat open wounds of the elephant.
In November 2021, Four Paws experts said Noor Jehan had severe tusk infection and needed immediate surgery as they arrived in Pakistan after the Sindh High Court granted them permission to inspect the health of the four African elephants, including Noor Jehan.
The developments come more than two years after Kaavan, dubbed as the “world’s loneliest elephant,” was released from a ramshackle zoo in Pakistan's capital Islamabad. Animal rights activists had long campaigned against the plight of the 35-year-old elephant who had lived alone since the death of his mate in 2012.
Kaavan was transferred to Cambodia in late 2020 in a blaze of publicity after his plight caught the attention of US superstar Cher, who helped raise funds for the jumbo relocation.