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Karachi elephants: KMC asked why it blocked their health check-up

SHC gives it a week to submit reply

SAMAA | - Posted: Apr 10, 2021 | Last Updated: 4 months ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Apr 10, 2021 | Last Updated: 4 months ago

In this photograph taken on February 28, 2018, elephants are pictured in their cage at the Karachi Zoo. Photo: AFP

Four elephants at Karachi’s Safari Park and zoo have been suffering from foot rot and other diseases. Animals activists have filed a case in the Sindh High Court requesting the city government to allow elephant specialists to conduct their check-up.

A two-member bench, comprising Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Rashida Asad, ordered on Thursday the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation to submit its reply in the case in one week after consulting its senior officials.

Barrister Salahuddin Ahmed, who was representing petitioners Advocate Owais Awan and Pakistan Animal Welfare Society, remarked the city government is not giving permission to Free The Wild, a UK-based animal rights organisation, to bring in specialists to examine the four elephants. They are resisting for no good reason. “This is nothing but misplaced national pride,” he remarked.

He said that one of the elephants, identified as Malaika, can’t even stand on her two feet because of a footrot. “We don’t want to move the elephants. We just want international vets and experts to check their health.”

Justice Rizvi asked the KMC lawyer why isn’t it allowing their check-up. If you have concerns about their safety, then do it under the supervision of your vet, he said.

Advocate Hassan Abdi, who was representing the city government, argued that the case is based on “malafide intentions and ill motives”, and asked for more time to submit his reply.

“Have you read the Islamabad High Court verdict on zoo animals? Have these four elephants been provided the facilities required by the international law?” You have to ensure that these majestic creatures are not mistreated, Justice Rizvi told him.

“Petitioners are ready and willing to provide consultation and advice of vet to work for their welfare of the elephants at Safari Park and Karachi zoo,” he said.

The court has summoned the KMC senior vet and the senior director of the zoo and Safari Park at the next hearing on April 22, Thursday.

Karachi elephants and KMC

There are four African elephants in Karachi: Malaika, Sonu, Madhu Bala, Noor Jehan. Two pairs of African elephants were brought to Karachi in 2009 from Tanzania. Malaika and Sonu have been held captive at Safari Park, while Noor Jehan and Madhu Bala were moved to an enclosure at the Karachi zoo.

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

Free The Wild offered to sent international experts for their health inspection but the KMC withdrew its permission at the last minute.

Foot diseases in elephants

Elephants are the largest living land animals, and they obviously need space to move around. They are suited to living in open spaces where they can walk around for at least 5.3 kilometres a day.

karachi elephants feet
The pads of Malaika’s feet are cracked and have deep pits. She has been caged at Karachi’s Safari Park. Photo: Free The Wild

Animals kept in cages or enclosures with concrete floors are not able to exercise their feet. They are forced to stand on floors covered in urine and faeces, making them more susceptible to diseases and infections.
It has been estimated that 50% of elephants die in captivity because of foot-related diseases among other reasons.

A study said that Asian and African elephants that stand on a hard surface for more than five hours a day are more likely to develop joint stiffness.

Malaika and Sonu have been housed in a small cement enclosure that has a divider in the middle so they remain in solitary. Their feet remain chained for 15 hours a day.

Noor Jehan and Madhu Bala live in similar conditions at the Karachi Zoo. They are trapped within a 20 square-meter cage of thick iron bars and are chained by three legs on a concrete floor.

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