KARACHI: Noor Jehan, a 17-year-old ailing African elephant, has died at a zoo in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, Pakistani media reported on Saturday, after weeks of efforts by local and foreign veterinarians to save the animal.
Egyptian veterinarian Dr. Amir Khalil this month led a team of Four Paws, a Vienna-based international animal welfare organization, to Karachi 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 had since been unable to move. The Four Paws experts, who had been remotely in touch with the Karachi Zoo management, were to return to Pakistan this week to fight for the life of 17-year-old female elephant.
However, Karachi Administrator Saifur Rehman said the giant animal breathed her last today as all efforts to help her survive went in vain, Pakistan's Geo News channel reported.
"The elephant was sick with a fever since yesterday," Rehman was quoted as saying. "All-out efforts were made to save her."
During the last few days, Noor Jehan was pin-pricked by drips and regularly doused with water to cool her down, according to the report.
Karachi Zoo Director Kanwar Ayub said the elephant, whose health was deteriorating since November last year, passed away at around 11:15am on Saturday morning.
The FOUR PAWS team was en route to Pakistan to perform a post-mortem examination on the 17-year-old's body.
"After the post-mortem examination, we will decide about her burial," Ayub said, praising the foreign vets for their efforts to save the elephant's life.
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.
Four Paws said in a statement it was now more urgent than ever that Madhubala, the remaining elephant at Karachi Zoo who was mourning her long-time companion, was transferred to a more "species-appropriate location" as soon as possible to prevent another potential tragedy.
"Karachi Zoo does not fulfil international standards and is not equipped to take appropriate care of elephants, especially when the animals need specialised veterinary care," Dr Khalil said.
"Therefore, Madhubala, the healthy elephant remaining at the zoo, must be relocated to a more species-appropriate place as soon as possible to at least give her a chance at a better life."
Four Paws experts said in November last year that 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.