Karachi elephants receive dental surgery

Last Captive Elephants From Pakistani Zoo Undergo One-Of-A-Kind Tusk Surgery

International vet team from FOUR PAWS performs innovative super-size procedure 


Karachi/London, 18 August 2022 – Vets and experts from the global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS are providing urgent pain relief for last four captive elephants in Pakistan. 

Upon the invitation of the Pakistani authorities, FOUR PAWS agreed to perform surgery on four female African elephants, who would be operated on across two zoos. This included a complicated and unique major surgery on two elephants, Madhubala and Noor Jehan, in Karachi Zoo, with Madhubala in particular, suffering from severe pain caused by a broken tusk infection.  

The other two elephants, Malika and Sonu, received treatment for their feet and nails at Karachi Safari Park. 

FOUR PAWS vet Dr. Amir Khalil lead a team of vets and wildlife experts, including Dr Frank Göritz and Dr. Thomas Hildebrandt from the Leibnitz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), who headed the surgery, and Dr. Marina Ivanova from FOUR PAWS. 

The experts provided an assessment on the wellbeing and health condition of the elephants in November 2021 and found that for many years 16 and 17-year-old Noor Jehan and Madhubala at Karachi Zoo had been suffering from severe dental problems. Instead of a traditional approach, the team needed to use a less invasive, unique new technique that requires less complicated aftercare, given the conditions at the zoo. To combat this the FOUR PAWS team used specially designed drills and endodontic burs along with other dental instruments. 

“Their tusks were broken, and the tissue inside the wounds was inflamed and infected. They were in a lot of pain and without treatment the inflammation would have expanded and caused blindness or even brain damage and death.  


“We put the elephants under a standing sedation, removed the dead tissue and cleaned the root canal. We also want to upskill the staff to be able to provide the long-term care the elephants need and taught the local caretakers how to conduct regular post-treatment flushing to prevent further inflammation and clean the wounds.  


“All went well and we expect good results for the elephant’s recovery. This was a very important step to improve their wellbeing” 

Dr Amil Khalil, FOUR PAWS veterinarian

Elephants Malika and Sonia at Karachi Safari Park suffered from cracked and overgrown nails and footpads and abscesses which the team treated and provided aftercare instructions to the local team. 

“Our recommendation includes that all four elephants should be reunited at Karachi Safari Park once they have recovered from the surgery. Also, it is imperative that all animals need a species-appropriate diet and enrichment must be provided. As part of the long-term care, we are also helping to train the local caretakers so they can take the best care of the elephants for the years to come. We are happy to help with any further improvements to implement our recommendations,” adds Dr Khalil. 

Animal welfare efforts in Pakistan 

CEO of FOUR PAWS Josef Pfabigan who was on site for the one-of-a-kind procedure stated, “At FOUR PAWS, we rescue animals, and in doing so also reveal systemic problems and legal shortcomings and raise awareness for why these issues matter. In Pakistan, recent developments are exciting: The Islamabad High Court in Pakistan has recognised that animals have natural legal rights. This means that they are entitled to protection under the nation’s Constitution. Pakistan has recently also agreed to stop the import of elephants into the country. FOUR PAWS had previously advised the Ministry of Climate Change to not allow any new elephants coming to Pakistan. This shows what strategic policy work and good working relations between animal welfare experts such as FOUR PAWS and local officials can achieve. We do hope that this good cooperation can be continued and extended to other animal welfare issues.” 

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Head of Communications UK: Hannah Baker

Hannah Baker

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