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KMC move to muster media support over ailing lioness flops

KARACHI: The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) initiative to muster media support over the ailing lioness failed on Tuesday when the zoo staff could not acquire blood samples from the sedated big cat for more than an hour.

The KMC move had come in the backdrop of media reports highlighting the plight of Sarah, a white lioness that has been suffering from some skin disease for the past two months.

Appearing a bit more calm this time, Sarah was found isolated from her mate, Alfred. Contrary to what journalists were told before their visit, no team of veterinary surgeons (from outside the zoo) arrived to draw specimens of hair and blood from the ailing animal.

The procedure was exclusively carried out by the zoo staff that included a vet, a veterinary compounder and some helpers. None of them wore protective medical gear while performing the process during which the big cat was sedated with 9ml of tranquilliser in three shots.

It also seemed that the staff had no idea about the time the lioness would remain unconscious as she came to before journalists guided by the zoo staff could enter an adjacent cage to have a closer look at her. They were immediately barred from doing so.

“Nerves get weak in sedation. We will try to get it (the blood sample) tomorrow again. Dr Isma Gheewala, the zoo’s private consultant, will also be there to examine the lioness,” zoo director Fahim Khan replied when he was asked to explain why the zoo staff could not draw a blood sample from the sedated animal.

Dr Gheewala was also scheduled to come on Tuesday but she got busy in some other work, he added. The lioness’ condition had improved and since the disease was not serious, the staff did not wear protective gear, he said.

When asked why laboratory tests were not done earlier, senior KMC director for culture, sports and recreation Saif Abbas said the zoo was strictly following the guidelines suggested by Dr Gheewala, Dr Qasim Pirzada, both private consultants, and Dr Aamir Ismail Rizvi, the zoo vet, all part of the zoo team regularly examining the lioness.

Laboratory tests, he argued, were being done to put to rest rumours and speculation about the animal’s poor health. The test results would be available in a day or two.

“Dr Gheewala has told us that the cat suffers from psoriasis (a long-lasting skin autoimmune disease characterised by patches of abnormal skin which are typically red, itchy and scaly),” he said, adding that it’s a genetic disease and the animal might relapse after recovery.

According to him, the major reason for animal disease and death in the zoo is linked to the poor condition of the soil, which could not be replaced periodically owing to a shortage of funds.

When asked why the white lions brought from South Africa in 2012 never had offspring, Mr Khan said: “They are just eight years old and (sexually) immature.”

Information gathered from the internet, however, shows that white lions are not a separate subspecies and are generally classified under the general species classification as Panthera Leo.

They become sexually mature between 24 to 27 months of age, reach adult size between three to four years and females give birth to their first surviving litter at the age of four.

Courtesy : Dawn News

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