KARACHI: Foreign veterinarians associated with an international animal welfare organization, Four Paws, will return to Pakistan on Saturday to fight for the life of 17-year-old ailing female elephant, Noor Jehan, at Karachi Zoo, the zoo director said on Tuesday, a day after Four Paws announced her condition was “critical and uncertain” despite tireless efforts.
The Four Paws team, led by Egyptian veterinarian Dr. Amir Khalil, visited Karachi this month to conduct tests and an ultrasound on Noor Jehan after a video of her limping and struggling to stand went viral on social media, prompting outrage. The team flew back after handing the zoo staff a treatment, diet, and therapy plan for the elephant.
Last week, zoo authorities said the animal walked into a pond inside her enclosure and got stuck there. She was lifted out of the pond with the help of a crane and has since been unable to move.
The Karachi Zoo staff and local veterinarians have been in contact with Four Paws to administer medicines to the elephant and provide liquids, a special diet, and hydrotherapy to keep her alive, but the efforts have so far been futile as the female African elephant has still not been able to move or stand up on her on.
“[Noor Jehan] is surviving and the Four Paws veterinarians are arriving on Saturday to take the treatment ahead, although they are already monitoring it remotely,” Kanwar Ayub, the Karachi Zoo director, told Arab News on Tuesday.
“She’s eating, which is good a sign. Treatment is also underway as per the prescription and under direct monitoring of Four Paws experts. But we cannot say anything final about an ICU (intensive care unit) patient. Noor Jehan is in the ICU.”
In a statement issued late Monday, a Four Paws spokesperson said the elephant’s health was not improving and her condition was still “critical and uncertain.”
“We are saddened to report that despite the tireless efforts of the local team and ongoing supervision and support from Four Paws, the health condition of Noor Jehan is not improving,” the spokesperson said.
“Despite several attempts to lift her up with the help of a crane and belts, she is unable to stand on her own, and her condition remains critical and uncertain. Lying on the ground for too long can become life-threatening for elephants.”
Pakistani authorities will urgently set up a committee comprising international and local experts and veterinarians to advise on how to proceed with Noor Jehan’s treatment, according to the Four Paws statement.
“Meanwhile, we continue advising the on-site team for doing everything possible to ease her suffering, and we appreciate everyone involved in this effort,” it read.
Named after the late iconic Pakistani singer, Noor Jehan 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 the Karachi Zoo while the other two, Malaika and Sonu, were shifted to Safari Park in the city.
Last year, Four Paws recommended timely relocation of the last remaining African elephants from Karachi Zoo to a more species-appropriate home.
“With the current situation, we urge for the immediate transfer of the healthy elephant, Madhubala, to prevent another tragedy due to a lack of proper care,” the statement read. “We hope to see a better future for Pakistan’s elephants, and we will continue to work toward that goal.”
The Zoo director said on Tuesday shifting Madhubala to Safari Park would require the assistance of the animal welfare organization.
“We need the expertise of Four Paws to shift Madhubala to Safari Park. The process will be started as soon as the team arrives in Karachi,” Ayub said.
In November 2021, Four Paws experts said Noor Jehan had a 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.