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‘Male elephant’ at Karachi’s Safari Park turns out to be female

01 Dec, 2021
The revelation came to light after over 10 years of the plant-eating mammal’s arrival to the country from Tanzania in 2009.  AFP
The revelation came to light after over 10 years of the plant-eating mammal’s arrival to the country from Tanzania in 2009. AFP

A veterinary experts’ team informed the Sindh High Court that one of the four elephants considered “male turned out to be a female,” Dawn reported.

The team is here for the health inspection of four elephants at Karachi zoo and Safari Park.

The revelation came to light after at least 10 years of the plant-eating mammal’s arrival to Pakistan from Tanzania in 2009. Four Paws, the global animal welfare group, that sent the German team to Pakistan also shared the development in an Instagram post.

On September 21, the SHC gave permission to Dr Frank Goeritz, the head veterinarian at Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, to travel to Pakistan for the elephants' health inspection.

Earlier this year, videos of the elephants surfaced and it showed they had broken nails, cracked tusks, swollen legs, and damaged feet.

According to the story, the team, headed by Dr Goritz, submitted its interim report to the SHC. It read that overall physical condition of the four African elephants at Karachi Zoo and Safari Park was good, but some immediate and long-term measures were needed to address their dietary, dental and other issues.

As per preliminary results, it added that both elephants at Safari Park had severe food problems and elephants at Zoo had severe dental problems.

Dr Goritz requested a two-judge bench headed by Justice Zafar Ahmed Rajput two-week time as results of some tests were still pending. He said he would “clearly communicate” the detailed results of the assessment and provide a report with specific recommendations.

The interim report stated that the team carried out visual inspection of body condition, blood collection for analysis, behaviour/temper, foot and dental status, standing sedation, body measurements for scientifically based calculation of body condition scoring index and other procedures.

“The overall physical condition of elephants is good, but slightly overweight and developed mild subcutaneous edema [accumulation of body water in the tissue]. However, both animals at [Karachi] Zoo showed low haemoglobin concentration and decreased haematocrit/PCV 3,” the report stated.

It also stated that one elephant, Sonu, at the Safari Park presented as a male turned out to be proven female as uterus and inactive ovaries were visualised ultrasonographically, but an oversized clitoris has been palpated inside the vestibulum, which was getting exposed very often by Sonu as reported by local staff.

It may be noted that elephants Sonu and Malaka were brought from Tanzania in 2009.

The team suggested some immediate actions including implementation of medical training into daily routine to provide proper foot care to two elephants, surgical removal of damaged and infected tusks with subsequent topic and general anti-infectious and anti-inflammatory treatment, vaccination against tetanus and other clostridium bacteria foot.

It added that dental problems/diseases were very painful and could lead to life-threatening situations in elephants.

As a long-term measure, it also recommended to provide species-specific keeping conditions necessary for housing a group of adult female elephants safely and ensure a good health status on a long-term basis to improve the animal well-being.

“Although the actual physical condition of elephants is good and their health status is not alarming, they display signs of neglected body/food care programme and some stereotypic behaviour, but it is imperative to train the animal to receive routine body care and basic medical check-ups (food trimming, blood collection) as well as to provide simple veterinary care (injections, treatment of creaked nails, wound treatments) to prevent disease manifestation and decline of general health conditions.”

The bench granted three-week time to the team for submitting the final report and adjourned the matter till Dec 22.

Four Paws has maintained that their team was working closely with the relevant authorities to help them make decisions for the elephants’ safety.

The same organisation was also involved in the rescue of Kavaan dubbed as "the world’s loneliest elephant" from the grim conditions in Islamabad. The elephant was airlifted to a specialised sanctuary in Cambodia on November 30.

It may be noted that a year has been passed since Kavaan was rescued. On this occasion, the organisation also shared a video of the now “not-so loneliest elephant”.

In October 2020, the Islamabad High Court had ordered the government to expedite the process of relocating Kaavan, Marghazar Zoo’s lone elephant, as well as two Himalayan brown bears to their respective sanctuaries.

American superstar Cher had also pressed the authorities concerned for the rescue of Kavaan. She had written songs for Kaavan’s release and she had spent the last few days with him in Pakistan.

The multi-award-winning singer had been with a film crew documenting Kaavan’s story and said she was proud to be part of an effort to free an elephant she said had been shackled to a shed for 17 years.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had also thanked the 74-year-old star for her efforts.