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The plight of a female elephant

Noor Jehan is sick to the extent that there is a fifty-fifty chance of her survival. No I am not referring to some Indian royalty or some famous woman from the subcontinent. Noor Jehan is the female elephant at Karachi zoo. Why she was named Noor Jehan is anybody’s guess. I am wondering if the original Noor Jehan, the famous wife of emperor Jehangir, was overweight to the extent that a female elephant in Karachi could be named after her. From historical records it can be assumed that the Empress Noor Jehan was actually a very attractive woman whose charms had captivated Mughal ruler Jehangir to the extent that he had sent a proposal to this famous lady even though she was already married to one Sher Afghan Khan. The husband, it is said, was enraged at this affront and reacted violently killing one of the members of the king’s team bringing the proposal. The rest is history and as was expected Sher Afghan Khan tasted the swords of Jehangir’s soldiers and Noor Jehan was ultimately married to the emperor. It might be that the zoo authorities were trying to point out the political weight of Noor Jehan. She was a lady well balanced in the art of governing and even warfare. She exercised all her powers with great abundance, especially since her husband was mostly preoccupied with drinking and eating the more forbidden delicacies of the time. She exercised such power that she was the only lady in the entire Mughal period who had a coin minted in her name.

Noor Jehan the elephant is in a government zoo in Karachi that has all the resources in the world but if you look at her history it breaks your heart that human beings could be so uncaring and unmindful of the plight of these magnificent animals in captivity. I wonder how many people remember that in the early days of Pakistan every night we could hear the lion’s roar in the Karachi zoo. We were at a little distance in Jacob Lines but still the magnificent roar of the lion would be crisp and clear. Nowadays the lion probably does not have the stamina for this and of course the level of noise pollution from other sources restricts the distance to which this roar can penetrate. Our zoo is not the only one housing lions, leopards and tigers etc. If you scroll through Facebook you will find many short videos in which young men proudly display rather ferocious looking animals and are playing with them with little concern for the dangers they might pose to them and the people of the locality where they are being kept, I am sure without the authorities having any knowledge of such dangerous inhabitants. The lions confined in small cages with cemented floors kept in the private small zoos of Karachi can be seen to be miserable and not their natural self. These animals are accustomed to living in an open air and in a cage-less environment.

The best example of a zoo around the world is the San Diego Zoo. It is so famous and popular that once when I was boarding a flight from Toronto to San Diego the immigration officer asked me if I was going to visit the San Diego Zoo and also gave me tips on what not to miss in that amazing zoo. The San Diego Zoo is in Balboa Park, San Diego, California, housing 4000 animals of more than 650 species and subspecies on 100 acres of Balboa Park leased from the City of San Diego. It has an annual budget of $45 million. However, the largest zoo in the world is the North Carolina Zoo which is nestled on 2,600 wooded acres centrally located in the heart of North Carolina, with 500 developed acres. As you can see both zoos not only have a wide variety of animals but also comparable land to house them in atmospheres as close as possible to their natural habitats. These zoos have veterinarians on staff who give immediate attention to any sick animal and do not have to go through red-tape or wait for international help.

Here at Karachi Zoo the plight of animals is amply demonstrated in the case of Noor Jehan. The local authority that runs the zoo has no funds and no veterinarian on call. This is a typically government-run affair with paucity of funds and inefficiency at its peak. A Four Paws International team had come from abroad to treat Noor Jehan. It is not certain if the local authorities will have the required funds to follow up. I would say let the beasts go as we did earlier with another elephant who now resides safe and happy in a natural habitat in Colombia.

Zia Ul Islam Zuberi, "The plight of a female elephant," Business recorder. 2023-04-15.
Keywords: Social science , San diego zoo , Balboa park , Natural habitat , Elephant , Animal , Noor Jehan , Jehangir , Sher Afghan Khan

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