Many of Thailand’s elephant veterinarians, including our own vets at Elephant Hills took part in a recent Elephant Foot and Nail Care Training. During the years of working with these magnificent animals and co-operating with the country’s top elephant veterinarians, we have learned the high importance of elephant foot care. Hence, our Elephant Conservation Project helped sponsoring this essential training, arranged by the Elephant Hospital in Lampang.
Elephant’s foot structure & function
Elephants are the largest living terrestrial mammals and their feet carry a huge body mass. To achieve this weight-bearing duty, elephant feet have very special structures. Asian elephants have five toes in the front feet, and four in the back. The tips of the toes are in contact with the ground and there is a large fat pad behind the toes. In order to help maintaining balance and reducing pressure, the fat pad has the ability to spread out.
Elephant’s feet enable the animal to walk and maintain balance in challenging terrains. Moreover, elephants can also “hear” through their feet. A study conducted at Stanford University in California found that the vocalizations and foot stomps of elephants resonate at a frequency other elephants can detect through the ground. The scientists found evidence that elephants use their sensitive trunks and feet to detect, and even interpret low-frequency seismic signals from distant herds.
Nail and foot care
Elephant’s feet are very sensitive and prone to infections if not taken care of properly. Cracked nails are also a common issue for captive elephants and managing foot diseases can be challenging because they often only become noticeable when they have progressed to difficult stages. Therefore, it’s crucial to train the vets and elephant care takers about preventative care and how to spot any abnormalities in the condition of the feet.
The insightful, practical training included a demonstration on soaking and filing elephant’s nails. This is an important part of elephant nail care, as it helps to prevent overgrowth and the many issues it can cause. As you can imagine, no ordinary nail file is adequate for the job. Instead, a large file, found in hardware shops is a good tool for this purpose. In addition to actual nail care procedures, the veterinarians emphasized the importance of regular exercise and walking on natural surfaces.
Within our Elephant Conservation Project we try to help improving the welfare of domestic elephants by supporting government run elephant hospitals. We also contribute to wild elephant conservation by helping the Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks to prevent human-elephant conflicts. We are currently looking for companies to co-operate with our project through corporate sponsorship. Please contact us at [email protected] if your company would be interested in aiding the elephants in Thailand.
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