As result of the owners’ cooperation and participation in the Elephant Health Camp, a thorough examination was done on every elephant’s foot. The sheer number of elephants was a blessing, enabling the team to determine patterns, both positive and not, regarding the condition and wear of the elephants’ feet. Collectively their feet were in good condition.
Foot pad and nail overgrowth is a common condition in captive elephants. Trimming tools vary in size and style but the goal is universal: maintain elephant’s feet to ensure even wear of both the pads and the toe nails and prevent overgrowth. The challenge is to not over-trim.
When foot pads are trimmed excessively, the elephant will bruise the bottom of the foot. If repeated, the bruised areas can become infected. Once an infection becomes chronic it is possible for the condition to advance to osteomyelitis, a disease that, to date, has not been cured in elephants.
Having the proper foot trimming tools is essential, so the other day we paid a visit to the local iron worker. He listened intently as our translator explained exactly what we wanted. He nodded his head, asked questions and finally agreed to create a prototype and have it delivered to us the next morning. True to his word the custom-made hoof trimming tool arrived as promised; it was perfect. He did such a great job on the first prototype that we gave him a second and ordered five sets.
Soon we will meet with the owners and mahouts to provide a workshop on foot care. Judging by the receptivity and interest shown by the owners and mahouts, I have no doubt that the foot care workshop will be well received.
Everything we do and everything we provide to the owners and mahouts is free of charge. At this point it is most important that the owners buy into the idea of change. By providing these tools and our expertise free of charge, we are helping to further our welfare goal. By working cooperatively with the owners and mahouts the elephants will benefit.
Feeling the need to make a contribution to this effort I signed International Elephant Aid up as the underwriter for the workshop. IEA will cover the cost of the tools, which will include supplies for foot soaks and foot trimming. I will donate my time and services to give the workshop and tutor the mahouts on proper elephant foot care.
I am so excited about this component of Dr. Mikota’s work at Chitwan National Park. Fortunately the owners and mahouts are receptive to our offer of assistance. They appear eager to learn whatever they can for the benefit of their elephants.