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Vets perform dental treatment of Madhubala at Karachi Zoo. Image Credit: Supplied

ISLAMABAD: Wednesday turned out to be the last day of the suffering for 17-year old Madhubala, a female elephant who is being kept in captivity at the Karachi Zoo for the last 15 years and was in constant pain and agony due to the damaged and infected tusks.

Thanks to the team of vets from the international organisation of animals wellbeing Four Paws, she is now relieved from anxiety.

It was a long, complex procedure spanning over almost five hours and initially, it seemed the dead tissues of her infected tusk had refused to give way.

However, the team of specialists led by Four Paws surgeons Dr Frank Goritz and Dr Thomas Hilderbrandt was determined to remove them.

After much struggle, they finally did away with the dead tissues, plucked off the broken tusk and carried out the surgery with the help of gigantic drills and endodontic burs along other dental instruments designed specially for the purpose.

The tusk was so hard that it came off in bits and pieces. They also drained abscess and worms from inside the cavity and then stitched it to avoid any infection.

Later, the vets briefed the local team of the zoo how to conduct the regular post-treatment flushing to prevent inflammation and sustain hygiene of the wounds.

A unique surgery

Madhubala’s surgery, according to the Four Paws Director Operations, Dr Amir Khalil, was unique in the sense it was much less invasive than the traditional method and was applied for the first time on an elephant.

He expressed his relief and satisfaction over the successful surgery and also acknowledged the efforts of the local vets, the Karachi Zoo management and the animals’ rights activists for making the surgery possible and termed it the first step towards the complete rescue and rehabilitation of the animals.

Instead of a traditional approach, the team used a less invasive, unique new technique that required less complicated aftercare, given the conditions at the zoo.

Before the start of procedure, Dr Amir held a media briefing and said the elephant's tusks were broken, and the tissue inside the wounds was inflamed and infected.

“They are in a lot of pain and without treatment the inflammation will expand and cause blindness or even brain damage and death,” said Dr Amir, adding, “we will put the elephants under standing sedation, remove the dead tissue, clean the root canal, and teach the local caretakers how to conduct regular post-treatment flushing and how to clean the wounds to prevent further inflammation.”

We expect good results for the elephants’ recovery. This is a very important step to improve their wellbeing,” said Dr Khalil.

At Karachi Safari Park too, elephants Malika and Sonia received treatment of their feet and nails.

The visit is taking place as a result of Sindh High Court (SHC) order and the experts provided an assessment on the wellbeing and health condition of the elephants in November 2021.

“Our recommendation includes that all four elephants should be reunited at Karachi Safari Park once they recover from the surgery. Also, they need a species-appropriate diet and enrichment must be provided. We are also helping to train the local caretakers so they can take the best care of the elephants. We are happy to help with any further improvements to implement our recommendations, adds Dr Khalil.

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, Sandra Honisch and Agnieszka.

Four Paws team’s lead surgeon Dr Frank Goritz examining a dental instrument before the sur-gical procedure on Madhubala on Wednesday.