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Caged Karachi elephants to wait one month for check-up

Their medicines are expiring

SAMAA | - Posted: May 31, 2021 | Last Updated: 6 months ago
Posted: May 31, 2021 | Last Updated: 6 months ago

Four elephants caged at Karachi’s Safari Park and zoo will have to wait one more month for their check-up as the city government remains adamant that they are “perfectly healthy”.

Foreign vets were expected to arrive in February to examine them, but the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation withdrew its permission last minute. The city government was then sued for mistreatment.

A deadlock persists as KMC remains hesitant to allow UK-based charity Free The Wild, which transported Islamabad zoo’s sole elephant to a Cambodian sanctuary, to send its team to Karachi. It said that the charity was trying to “malign” it.

The charity has, however, collected $17,637 in funds and purchased equipment and medicines for the health assessment of the elephants after pictures and videos of their feet went viral in January. The medicines are about to expire now.

“It is quite clear that the proposal submitted by Free The Wild is not acceptable to KMC,” Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi remarked during a May 24 hearing.

Advocate Hassan Abdi, who has been fighting KMC’s case, said that the court should order an independent health assessment of the elephants. “There is an institute in Tando Jam which can be approached,” he suggested once again after the proposal was turned down at the last hearing.

“How many elephants are there in Tando Jam?” the judge questioned. “How many hospitals treat elephants in Pakistan?”

Abdi ignored the question and went on to say that there are two vets at the Karachi zoo who look after all animals, including elephants.

“Sir, I have 35 years of experience of working with animals,” interjected KMC Senior Director Mansoor Qazi, who stood in front of the wooden podium in a crisp white shalwar kameez coupled with a grey waistcoat. “While I don’t directly work with elephants, we have two very competent vets.”

Judge Rizvi asked if the Karachi zoo and Safari Park elephant cages meet international standards. Do you even have space for the elephants to walk?

“Yes, we do,” said Qazi in a heartbeat after locking gaze with the judge. “I can assure you the elephants are in good shape. They had seasonal dryness and we treated it.”

Animal experts, however, feel that the cages at the Karachi Safari Park are too small compared to international standards. Research suggests that elephants, the largest land mammals, are suited to living in open spaces where they can walk around for at least 5.3 kilometres a day.

The enclosures at Safari Park and Karachi zoo are ill-equipped, without proper company, proper food, water, medical treatment, healthcare facilities, or competent caregivers, according to the petition. These animals have been “put in a hostile environment in which the visitors tease animals by throwing articles, pelting stones, poking them or disturbing them with loud noises”.

Barrister Abbas Leghari, who appeared on behalf of petitioners Advocate Owais Awan and Pakistan Animal Welfare Society, emphasised the urgency of the health assessment of these elephants.

Qazi then claimed that the last elephant at Karachi zoo went on to live for 65 years. “Anarkali was loved and taken care of,” he remarked.

Anarkali had died in 2006 after years of being alone.

KMC has been given 15 days to file its objections to Free The Wild’s proposal. The hearing has been adjourned for a month.

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