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KMC ‘sued’ for ‘mistreatment’ of four Karachi elephants

Petitioners want international experts to examine them

SAMAA | - Posted: Mar 29, 2021 | Last Updated: 6 months ago
Posted: Mar 29, 2021 | Last Updated: 6 months ago

Animal activists have taken the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation to the court for its ‘inhuman’ and ‘negligent mistreatment’ of the four elephants at Karachi zoo and Safari Park: Malika, Sonu, Noor Jehan, and Madhubala.

People had shown concern about their health after a video of their feet went viral in January. International organisations asked the government to conduct their medical examination and ensure their proper care.

The petition, filed by Advocate Owais Awan and Pakistan Animal Welfare Society, has made the following demands:

  • Actions of the city government must be termed illegal, unlawful, and unconstitutional, and against the injunctions of Islam.
  • All four elephants must be immediately examined
  • Directions must be issued to ensure international standards of animal care for them
  • A committee must also be formed to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the Karachi zoo.

A two-member bench of the Sindh High Court, comprising Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Rashida Asad, heard the petition on Monday and issued notices to all the respondents, including KMC, Safari Park director, Zoo director, and Sindh government. The next hearing will be held on April 9.

About the elephants

All four elephants caught in the wild in Tanzania and “forcibly ripped from their mothers at an age where they would still be drinking milk”, according to the petitioners. KMC reportedly paid Rs40 million to a Pakistani animal trader to bring them to Karachi in 2009.

They were kept at Safari Park initially and then separated once again after Noor Jehan and Madhubala were sent to the Karachi zoo on May 20, 2010.

Related: Karachi elephants denied health check-up

The animals were “put in a hostile environment in which the visitors tease animals by throwing articles, pelting stones, poking them or disturbing them with loud noises”, the petitioner said, adding that their enclosures are “ill-equipped, without proper company, proper food, water, medical treatment, healthcare facilities” or competent caregivers.

These elephants are in “pain, distress, and agony”, and have been showing signs of zoochosis as they “bob and sway their heads which points to the possibility of a neurologist issue due to the conditions of their captivity”.

Here are some features of their cages at KMC parks.

  • They are small cement cages
  • No access to natural habitat
  • Three legs of the elephants are chained at night
  • They stand in their own urine and faeces for 15 hours

These factors have led to foot problems among the elephants. Footrot has affected Malika so much that she can only stand on two of her feet at a time. She requires specific treatment which is “beyond the scope of the Safari Park”. Research reveals that foot problems are a leading cause of the deaths of elephants in captivity.

Related: Man files petition against ‘criminal treatment’ of Karachi zoo animals

Wildlife veterinarian Dr Brett Bard and zoologist Marion Garai have said that the elephants have been living in “deplorable conditions and are in need of an immediate change”, the petitioner added.

Elephants denied medical examination

On February 2, 2021, the petitioner held a meeting with KMC and discussed with them calling elephant specialists Dr Frank Goertiz and Prof Dr Thomas Hildebrandt to Pakistan to examine the animals. Free The Wild, a UK-based organization, even started gathering funds for their visit after a verbal agreement by the city government. The KMC, however, turned back on its word and denied permission to the vets after raising concerns about the fundraising campaign.

The petitioners say that the medical assessment of the elephants is necessary as there are no experts in the field of elephant veterinary care in Pakistan.

What we know about African elephants

African elephants are known for the nomadic lifestyle.

  • They are constantly on the move.
  • They can cover a distance of 10km in a day.
  • They move in matriarchal herds.
  • Elephants have emotions similar to human beings; they celebrate birth and cry at deaths.

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