Wednesday August 17, 2022

Elephants have severe foot and dental problems, vets tell SHC

December 01, 2021
Elephants have severe foot and dental problems, vets tell SHC

The overall physical conditions of the four elephants being kept at the Karachi Zoo and the Safari Park are good, but they have severe foot and dental problems, foreign veterinary experts told the Sindh High Court (SHC) in their interim report on Tuesday.

Filing an ad-hoc examination report on the health of the four elephants, Dr Frank Goeritz, head veterinarian of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Germany suggested immediate actions for the treatment of the animals and long-term measures for their health. The court had earlier appointed Dr Goeritz to check the elephants’ health.

The veterinary experts submitted in their preliminary findings that the overall physical conditions of all the four elephants are good, but the animals are slightly overweight and have developed mild subcutaneous edema (accumulation of body water in the tissue).

They submitted that the transrectal ultrasound and the rapid blood analysis did not reveal any major pathology of the internal organs examined, but both elephants at the Karachi Zoo showed low haemoglobin concentration and decreased haematocrit.

They also submitted that Sonu the elephant presented as male turned out to be female. They said both elephants at the Safari Park have severe foot problems: cracked nails, overgrown foot pads, overgrown and malformed nails, and abscesses. Both elephants at the Karachi Zoo have severe dental problems: broken tusks, with exposed and infected pulp cavity, they added.

The experts recommended that medical training may be integrated into daily routine to provide proper foot care to the elephants. They also recommended surgical removal of the damaged and infected tusks, with subsequent topical and general anti-infectious and anti-inflammatory treatment.

They said that this complicated surgery has to be performed in general anaesthesia, and needs a specialised team and specific equipment. They recommended vaccination of all the elephants against tetanus and other clostridium bacteria.

They also said foot and dental diseases are very painful and can lead to life-threatening situations in elephants, adding that animal welfare efforts are urgently required to prevent such problems.

They suggested long-term actions, including housing a group of adult female elephants safely, both for the animal and for the people to ensure a good health status on a long term and to improve the animals’ welfare.

They said that although the actual physical conditions of the elephants were good and none of their health status was alarming, they displayed signs of neglected body or food care programme and some stereotypical behaviour.

They said it is imperative to train the animals to receive routine body care and basic medical check-ups (food trimming, blood collection, etc.) as well as to provide simple veterinary care (injections, treatment of cracked nails, wound treatments, etc.) to prevent disease manifestation and decline of general health conditions.

They also said changes in the enclosures’ design and in animal training are mandatory to facilitate “behavioural enrichment programme” to stimulate the elephants physically and mentally. They added that after the evaluation of all the results, a detailed report would be provided with specific recommendations.

After taking the report on record, an SHC division bench headed by Justice Zafar Ahmed Rajput and Justice Mohammad Faisal Kamal Alam granted three weeks’ time to the experts to submit their detailed report.

The applicant, an NGO for animals, had submitted in their application that four elephants — Malika, Sonu, Noor Jehan and Madhubala — were being kept at the Safari Park and the Karachi Zoo in concrete structures and improper conditions, which was putting their lives at risk.

The organisation said that on the basis of video and photographic assessment, wildlife experts had concluded that the four elephants were being kept in a deplorable state.

The NGO’s representative said that Malika was in a dire need of medical attention because, according to veterinary experts, she was forced to put her weight on two legs since all four of her feet could not carry her weight.