Elephant Noor Jehan dies at Karachi Zoo in Pakistan

Elephant Noor Jehan dies at Karachi Zoo in Pakistan
The body of an African elephant Noor Jahan, 17, in front of water jet fans, at a zoo in Karachi, Pakistan April 22, 2023, credit: Reuters/Akhtar Soomro

Noor Jehan, a 17-year-old elephant at Karachi Zoo, passed away on Sunday morning, according to animal welfare organization Four Paws. Veterinarians of Four Paws had recently visited the elephant. 

After falling in a pool a week ago, her health deteriorated rapidly, and she wasn’t able to stand up. Four Paws had been working via video calls with the local zoo staff to advice them on the best possible care. 

“It is heartbreaking that she had to die at only 17 years old, when she could have had many more years. Karachi Zoo does not fulfill international standards and is not equipped to take care of elephants, especially when the animals need specialized veterinary care,” Four Paw veterinarian Amir Khalil said.

Two weeks ago, Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), which operates the zoo, reached out to Four Paws for urgent assistance after images and reports surfaced of Noor Jehan in severe physical distress. Her hind legs were paralyzed, and she was in critical condition.

Upon examining the elephant, Khalil discovered that an internal injury and damaged pelvic floor, likely caused by trauma, were responsible for Noor Jehan’s current health condition and unusual body position. A treatment plan was devised, with the elephant’s survival relying on the zoo’s dedication to the plan.

However, just days after Four Paws’ departure, Noor Jehan fell into a pool and was unable to get up on her own. A week later she died.

In the wild, elephants can live up to 60 years or more in their natural habitats, where they have the freedom to roam, socialize, and engage in natural behaviours crucial to their physical and mental well-being.

Noor Jehan was captured in the wild in Tanzania at a young age before being brought to Pakistan in 2009. Last year, Khalil and his team treated both Noor Jehan and Madhubala, another elephant at the zoo, and recommended relocating them to a more suitable environment, which never happened.

Khalil highlighted the poor living conditions of other animals at Karachi Zoo, and added that it’s necessary that Madhubala is relocated to a “more species-appropriate place as soon as possible to at least give her a chance at a better life.” Recently, the Prime Minister confirmed plans to close the zoo. 

Pakistani journalist Quatrina Hosain, who had been reporting daily on Noor Jehan’s condition, said she hoped the elephant’s passing would set an example for others in the country to treat animals better

“Let’s make a start by putting out water for birds in our balconies. If you see someone kicking a stray, stop them. Don’t pay monkey walas (people who train monkeys for street performances). If you see a donkey being abused, pull over and stop them,” Hosain said.

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