Karachi Zoo concerns continue

4 May 2023


Concerns for the welfare of animals at Karachi Zoo in Pakistan are continuing to receive media attention.

The elephant Noor Jehan at Karachi Zoo with people stood either side with blurred out faces

In the last couple of months, it has been reported that the animals at Karachi Zoo may not have been receiving enough food due to lack of funds, leading to concerns that animals faced starvation. Concerns have also been raised regarding the cramped conditions in which many of the animals are kept, as well as a reported shortage of staff. 

The recent death of one of the zoo’s elephants named Noor Jehan has led to further questioning of the zoo’s ability to provide the best care for its animals.

In 2021, the Karachi court called on international vets to assess the wellbeing of the four elephants held in Karachi – two at Karachi Zoo and two at Karachi Safari Park. All had been imported from Tanzania in 2009. Although their general condition was reportedly found to be reasonable, one elephant at the Safari Park needed surgery to remedy an infected tusk. It was also discovered that both of the elephants were female, despite the park being under the impression, for 12 years, that one was a male.

Following concerning reports and video footage showing 17-year-old elephant Noor Jehan hobbling around her enclosure at Karachi Zoo, an urgent veterinary examination was conducted in April 2023, which revealed that she was suffering from an internal hematoma (internal bleeding) and a damaged pelvic diaphragm likely to have been caused by some kind of trauma. Despite her reportedly receiving treatment, it is believed that she later fell in her enclosure, was unable to stand again, and sadly passed away. Some media reports claim that she had broken back legs, although we understand that the results of her autopsy have yet to be revealed.

Whatever the truth is, poor Noor Jehan clearly suffered for a long time before her untimely death and should never have been incarcerated in the zoo in the first place. Born Free is calling on the authorities in Pakistan to phase out the keeping of elephants in zoos and to rehome the remaining elephants to sanctuaries.

We have also raised our concerns about the welfare of other animals at Karachi Zoo with the Sindh local government and urged that they give serious consideration to the proposed closure of the zoo. The zoo’s closure has reportedly received the backing of several government ministers.

There are clearly serious concerns about the welfare of animals held in zoos across Pakistan, with news shared recently by the Prime Minister’s Head of Stategic Reforms that the ‘first meeting of all provincial wildlife departments on the condition of zoos and a national strategy for the future’ was held yesterday. It’s high time the authorities in Pakistan took action to prevent further tragedies like the one that befell Noor Jehan.