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Karachi elephants not in ‘deplorable conditions,’ insists KMC

KMC submits counter arguments after almost five months

SAMAA | - Posted: Aug 26, 2021 | Last Updated: 1 month ago
Posted: Aug 26, 2021 | Last Updated: 1 month ago

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

The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation submitted on Wednesday its arguments in the Karachi elephants case five months after it was sued for denying their health check-up by foreign vets.

The KMC was accused, in a petition filed in March end, of neglecting the four elephants at Karachi Zoo and the Safari Park, keeping them chained in small enclosures (compared to international standards) and denying them medical care. The elephants, identified as Malika, Sonu, Noor Jehan, and Madhubala, were stolen from the wild in Tanzania and brought to Pakistan 11 years ago.

Muhammad Khalid Siddiqui, the deputy director of the KMC sports, culture, and recreation department, categorically and vehemently denied the allegations in a written statement. “There has been no inhumanity, cruelty, illegal captivity of the elephants at Karachi Zoo and Safari Park,” he claimed, adding that the “deplorable condition of the four African elephants” is “self-assumed”.  

Earlier this year, videos of the elephants surfaced and it showed that they had broken nails, cracked tusks, swollen legs, and damaged feet. Following this, an international animal rights group, the Pro Elephant Network, called for emergency medical assistance. KMC had, however, claimed it had treated them after applying petroleum jelly to their feet.

Free The Wild, a UK-based animal rights organization, offered to send international experts for their health inspection but theKMC withdrew its permission at the last minute.

Reasoning the decision, Siddiqui said that their access to the elephants was restricted after it launched a “frivolous and deceiving” funds campaign to “further sabotage the reputation of the nation and its recreational facilities”. He said that the permission withdrawal made the “petitioners embarrassed and irritated resulting in the petition under reference.”

KMC had, however, requested access to the funds at a previous hearing.

Elephant import

The deputy director cited an example of a Free The Wild campaign against the import of elephants in Pakistan and termed it “negative propaganda”.

They want to discourage the world from exporting elephants to Pakistan, portraying that elephants are being treated with cruelty and being killed in the country. “They are trying to portray before the world that KMC and/or Pakistan lack the necessary qualification and/or expertise to treat the elephants in Pakistan.” This is against our national interest, Siddiqui remarked.  

The KMC has been providing recreational facilities to the people of Karachi for about seven decades, he argued. There were two elephants at Karachi Zoo before: Anarkali who died at the age of 68 years and Madhubala who died when she was 60 years.  He said that “they faced no problems as qualified vets, para-vet, zoologists and horticulturalists” were attending them.

What we know about African elephants

  • 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.

The elephants are “robust, docile, playful and have not faced any sort of life-threatening or disturbing problems”, the KMC official said, adding that the pachyderms have been provided with atmosphere closed to their natural habitat with a healthy diet and proper health inspection by qualified vets — a claim which was not proven by any evidence.

Finally, the KMC said that the court may order their independent medical assessment from the Veterinary Department of the Agriculture University in Tando Jam, Lahore zoo experts, or any other team of independent experts. “If they show that elephants need help, the KMC would call that expert for examination at its own expense.”

Malika suffered minor cracks in her heel in January and it was “timely treated” and she is in good medical shape, Siddiqui said without sharing any medical report or details of the treatment given to her.

Abuse of animal rights became a topic of discussion among Pakistanis after the plight of Kaavan, the sole elephant at Islamabad zoo, was highlighted by activists and social workers. The Islamabad High Court ordered authorities to move all animals out of the Marghazar zoo because of the frequent mistreatment of animals. Kaavan was flown to a Cambodian sanctuary for retirement.

Since many activists have resisted and criticised Pakistan’s attempt to import more elephants, claiming that the animal is not native to the country so it lacks the facilities to provide proper care to them.

The hearing has been adjourned till September 21 on the petition filed by Advocate Owais Awan and the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society.

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