KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – Noor Jehan, an elephant in Pakistan’s Karachi Zoo whose illness revived criticisms of the nation’s zoos, died on Saturday despite frantic efforts to treat her, officials said.

The critically ill 17-year-old elephant had fallen into a pond this month and been unable to get up without help.

“After fighting for 9 days, she succumbed to her critical condition. She spent too long lying on the ground – a life-threatening situation for elephants,” Four Paws, an international animal welfare organisation that had been advising local and international veterinarians on her treatment, said in a statement.

Four Paws veterinarian Amir Khalil said it was “heartbreaking that she had to die at only 17 years old, when she could have had many more years”. Noor Jehan was an African elephant, whose average lifespan is 60 to 70 years.

In recent years two lions died of asphyxiation in Pakistan after handlers tried to get them out of their den using smoke, and a number of white tiger cubs have died.

The director of the Karachi Zoo was removed this month over complaints of negligence. A court in 2020 ordered the closure of the Islamabad Zoo, where the elephant Kaavan was kept.

The American celebrity Cher, after years of seeking to free Kaavan, came to Pakistan to see him off on his move to a Cambodian sanctuary.

Khalil said Karachi Zoo did not meet international standards and urged that Madhubala, the healthy elephant remaining at the zoo, be relocated to a more species-appropriate place to give her a chance at a better life.

Four Paws said Madhubala was mourning the loss of her longtime companion.

The widespread criticism faced by authorities in the wake of Noor Jehan’s condition – with images of her helplessly lying on her side – has led to reports in the local media that Karachi Zoo may be shut down permanently.

Four Paws said it welcomed this proposal, adding that it could be a turning point for the welfare of wild animals in captivity in Pakistan.

(Reporting by Islamabad bureau; Writing by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Willaim Mallard)