WPK_220808 Jumbo root canal 1-1659970003707
African elephants, 17-year-old Noor Jehan and 16-year Madhubala, will undergo dental procedures at the Karachi Zoo. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: Veterinary doctors from the global animal welfare organisation Four Paws are on their way to Karachi next week to treat four female African elephants — two at Karachi Zoo and two in the Safari Park.

They will carry out dental procedures for 17-year-old Noor Jehan and 16-year Madhubala, the two elephants at the Karachi Zoo.

For the root canal procedure, the vets will bring specially-designed drills, endodontic burs and other dental instruments. The tusk infection in both the animals is stated to have reached an alarming stage, and they are in constant pain.

The mission is taking place in response to a Sindh High Court’s (SHC) May 2022 order that allowed two identical petitions by PAWS, a local organisation for the welfare and wellbeing of the animals and a citizen Owais Awan, calling for medical care to the elephants.

WPK_220808 Jumbo root canal 2-1659970001055
Vets showing a swollen cavity where the tusk was removed from a female elephant at Karachi Zoo in 2021.

Four Paws’ vets visited the animals in November 2021, and after collecting blood samples and tests, Dr Amir Khalil, Dr Marina, Dr Thomas Hilderbrandt and Frank Goritz submitted several recommendations to the SHC for enabling better environment, food, medical care and training for the animals.

However, the petitioners sought the court’s permission to allow the vets to return and perform the medical treatment as the KMC lacked the expertise to implement those recommendations, according to the counsel for the petitioners’ Abbas Leghari Advocate.

Now Sonu became Sonia

Four Paws’ team comprises Dr Marina Ivanova, Dr Frank Goritz, Dr Thomas Hilderbrandt, CEO of Four Paws Josef Pfabigan, Director Dr Amir Khalil, elephant trainer Mathias Otto and his assistant Agnieszka.

In 2021, the team reported that the damaged and infected tusks need to be removed soon; otherwise, the tooth infection will prove to be fatal for the animals,” said Dr Goritz, adding the elephants had severe dental problems, which are “painful” and “life-threatening”.

According to Dr Amir Khalil, it will be a unique operation since removing an elephant’s infected tusk requires large instruments, special procedures and care. “We are coming with a big team this time as it is a very important and unique operation to be performed by internationally -recognised vets of Four Paws,” he said.

The report also said that the two elephants at the Safari Park faced problems like cracked nails, overgrown foot pads, and overgrown and malformed nails and abscesses.

One of the two elephants at Safari Park, Sonu, earlier considered a male, has turned out to be female. She and her companion Malika were brought from Tanzania in 2009, but zoo vets had not checked them in over a decade. So they were not aware of the gender of Sonu (now Sonia).