Islamabad: A team of vets and animals experts of the international animal rights group Four Paws, Sunday began assessment of the health and wellbeing of two female African elephants Sonu and Malika being kept in the Karachi Safari Park.
The team is expected to carry out tests and take blood samples of the two other female elephants Madhubala and Noor Jehan at the Karachi Zoo on Monday.
Imported from Tanzania
The elephants were imported from Tanzania many years ago and when earlier this year, videos of the elephants surfaced showing they had injured nails, cracked tusks, swollen legs, and damaged feet, the animals’ rights activists took up the matter in the Sindh High Court (SHC) raising serious doubts about the pachyderms’ wellbeing.
A few days earlier, a rare white lion died, reportedly due to poor nutrition, authorities’ negligence and lack of medication at the Karachi Zoo.
On the animals rights activists’ plea, the SHC requested Four Paws to examine the elephants and submit a report on their health conditions and wellbeing in the court on November 30.
Dr Amir Khalil leads the team of veterinarians and wildlife experts, including Dr Frank Göritz and Prof Thomas Hildebrandt from the Leibnitz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) and Dr Marina Ivanova from Four Paws.
Kaavan living peaceful life
Dr Amir Khalil is well-known in Pakistan for his role in the successful relocation of the male Asiatic elephant Kaavan last year from Islamabad’s Marghazar Zoo to a sanctuary for elephants in Cambodia.
Animal rights activist Owais Awan who is also a co-petitioner along with Mahira Umar of the animals rights group ‘Paws’ in the SHC said the elephants were lucky to have a vet like Amir Khalil and his team as it is because of their efforts that Kaavan is now living a peaceful life in an elephant sanctuary.
During the visit to Safari Park, the team was received by Director Coordination to Administrator Karachi, Irfan Salam, who extended full cooperation.
Amir Khalil later briefing the media said his team worked closely with the national authorities to support their decision-making regarding the future care of the elephants, who are between 12 and 14 years old.
‘Thankful to SHC for trust’
“We are grateful for the trust of the Sindh High Court in our expertise and happy to support the authorities in making sure these elephants receive species-appropriate care. We will perform medical examinations on all four elephants, check their feet and assess their keeping conditions,” he said, adding Four Paws also brought medicine and equipment and were ready to treat the elephants in case any urgent medical action is needed.
Irfan Salam also welcomed the international experts and assured the provincial government was ready to improve and upgrade the living conditions for the African elephants in line with the report and recommendations to be submitted by the Four Paws team in the SHC on Tuesday.
Following the assessment, the Four Paws experts will propose their recommendations to the High Court who will take the outcomes into further consideration – a process that can take up to multiple years until a decision is made.
Kaavan was the last Asiatic elephant in captivity in Pakistan. According to official information, these elephants are also the last four African elephants in Pakistan.