Findings: Saheli died of heart failure, says autopsy

The heart of an elephant weighs up to 28 kilograms but beats much slower than that of other mammals.

May 26, 2012


Saheli, the elephant who died at Marghazar Zoo on May 1, suffered a heart attack, said an autopsy report issued by the National Veterinary Laboratory (NVL) on Friday. 

The autopsy was carried out by NVL experts on samples from Saheli, after the pachyderm died under mysterious circumstances following a brief illness.

According to the report, Saheli’s respiratory system had failed after she lay down during her illness. According to vets, an elephant’s respiratory system is unique as it lacks a pleural cavity and the lungs are directly attached to the walls of the chest cavity. An elephant’s respiratory movements are only dependent on chest musculature as there is no system of pumping the lungs via negative pressure in the pleural cavity like other mammals.

An elephant should therefore not be allowed to lie in a position that may suppress its chest as in such a case, the elephant would find it difficult to breathe.

The heart of an elephant weighs up to 28 kilograms but beats much slower than that of other mammals. An elephant’s heart produces a strong, prolonged beat approximately 28 times a minute against a human heart which beats 70 times a minute.

CDA Environment Director General Sheikh Suleman said the report would be forwarded to the inquiry committee headed by Member Administration Shaukat Mohmand. However, he added that the committee’s formation has yet to be finalised.

He said veterinary experts were supposed to take care of the animal and not allow her to sit in an inappropriate position as they knew the implications.

Marghazar Zoo veterinarian Saleem Ansari acknowledged that they were unable to monitor Saheli’s posture during her illness, but insisted that the report confirmed that Saheli was not poisoned. Ansari said that the elephant’s health had improved after she fell ill due to a wound on her leg, adding that Saheli had also eaten normally on the day of her death.

Meanwhile, CDA bosses seem to have learnt no lesson from the loss of the female elephant as her male partner, Kavan, has also fallen ill now. Kavan has been aggressive and unfriendly since the loss of his partner, a situation that is compounded by the suspension of his regular handlers following Saheli’s death.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2012.


Romm | 10 years ago | Reply

I request zoo authorities to please set remaining animals free as they too will die due to apathy of handlers. In Zardari's regime, every living being is a sufferer.

Saqib Syed | 10 years ago | Reply

There is no effective legislation to safeguard animal rights in our society with the exception of some redundant laws of British Raj for prevention of cruelty against animals and that too merely protect pets and animals at work like horses and donkeys. Whenever a proposal is put forth to cover these black spots of legislation, its turned down by the same rhetoric that here human rights are at stake and you are talking about animal rights. Death of Saheli is another stone fallen in the stagnant pool which invites us to make a comprehensive piece of legislature for animal rights in cage, at work and at large. Similarly the prevailing laws are silent about the disposal of ivory and skin of animals died in Zoological gardens or national parks. Mere departmental rules and not sufficient to cover these area.

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