Madhubala was one of four African elephants at the Karachi zoo who on Wednesday received long-awaited treatment from international experts.
The elephant had been suffering from a dental infection caused by a broken a tusk. The procedure to relieve the pain required a unique kind of sedation which required her to be standing and was carried out by a team of eight experts from welfare group Four Paws International.
"Due to long-term inflammation the tissue is so fragile and thin it's not possible to take it out at once, it is breakable," Dr Marina Ivanova told reporters from Reuters news agency, showing them the broken tusk.
Post-surgery phase critical for recovery
Madhubala, who was named after a legendary Indian actress, had to have her eyes taped shut and her legs tied to supports for the duration of the surgery. The Four Paws veterinarians had to use drills and other heavy surgical tools to extract the infected tusk, which came out in bits and pieces.
They cautioned that the post-surgery care was even more important, as the large wound needed daily cleaning.
Their visit follows an order by the Sindh High Court (SHC) in Karachi last year for Four Paws to assess the health of the animals after local animal rights activists had raised legal concerns about their well-being.
"Today we are happy to start the first unique procedure at the Zoo in standing position not in sleeping or complete anaesthesia as it could be risky for the elephant and could be fatal, which we don't want," team leader Dr Aamir Khalil said.
The other elephants were in a much better state as their foot treatment started two months ago, Khalil added.