Our host, our friend, our ‘saheli’ in the Murghzar zoo of Islamabad passed away on tuesday. She was a 22 years old elephant when the average age for an elephant is 60 to 70 and sometimes it goes upto 90 to 110 years.I have been taking my children to the Islamabad zoo every year for last ten years and ‘saheli’ was always there to welcome us. Saheli, the gentle giant, our children loved to meet, Kaavan stayed inside but she made sure to greet all visitors with a smile at the entrance of her house. The source of charm and attraction for kids has been faded out to oblivion.
Saheli was gifted by the Sri Lankan government in 1991. She had been brought to Pakistan to be partnered with a male elephant named Kaavan when she was one-year-old. Faiz Mohammad, the caretaker of the elephants, wiped his tears as he narrated the story of losing Saheli. “I have been taking care of her ever since she was a year old,” he said. “She was like my own child.”
Mohammad said Saheli had been injured a few days back and was in a lot of pain. He said Saheli had been limping and her movement had slowed down. Two doctors have been coming to check and treat her for the past two days. “I do not think there was any mistake made in her treatment, but I still don’t know the cause of her death,” he said, taking breaks to compose himself.
Mohammad said, “She was very playful. I would call her name as soon as I entered the zoo gate every morning and she would trumpet in response. When I entered their cage she would come running to me. Now I can sense the tension in Kaavan’s behaviour. He has been so impatient and anxious ever since she fell ill.”
Zoo authorities had sent Saheli’s samples for testing when she was sick and sent a second set of samples after her death. “We are waiting for the results to figure out what went wrong,” said Marghazar Zoo and Wildlife Director Sajjad Hussain Shah.
The doctor checked her the night before and she was reportedly fine. She ate this morning and then just passed out after a while, said Shah.
Another sourse say, the most popular animal of the zoo, on Sunday, fell down on ground and could not stand up despite all out efforts by the zoo administration and veterinary officers. It has been reported that couple of weeks ago, the right rear foot of the female elephant got wounded with some sharp object but the management did not bother to give a thought on the matter.
As a result, the normal injury turned out to be the death reason of the animal worth Rs15 million. According to witnesses, zoo staff tried to help the elephant to stand many times on Sunday but failed, as the injury had become much serious by then.
Doctors came to check her in the last two days of her life when it was too late. Dr Saleem Sulheri, a veterinarian at the zoo, said that the body will be buried and the fossils will be extracted for preservation at Pakistan Museum of Natural History in Shakarparian. The display of the elephant’s skeleton would add another attraction to Islamabad, as recently a whale shark was brought here from Karachi to after it was found dead on seashore.
Capital Development Authority (CDA) Chairperson Engineer Farkhand Iqbal has directed an inquiry into the incident. The team will be headed by CDA Member Administration Shoukat Ali Mohmand.
Mohammad and another caretaker, Bilal, have also been suspended.
The chairperson said that strict action would be taken if someone’s negligence was found responsible for the incident.
Who is responsible?
Huge animals are disappearing from our zoos at an alarming pace. The lions of Islamabad and Karachi zoos died in the recent years. A crocodile passed away in the Karachi zoo. We are left with a majority of birds in the Murghzar zoo. But who cares?
If someone does care then please appoint a permanent qualified Vet doctor for the remaining animals and their regular check ups.