Three of the elephants at Taronga Western Plains Zoo are considered to be in their twilight years. To ensure all three females maintain good health and a high quality of life as they grow older, keepers and veterinarians at the Zoo have put in place a special care program to assist with age related matters.
The elephants have also learnt to be weighed, present their feet, present their ears and to open their mouths for regular health and dental checks. These basic behaviours allow keepers to detect the slightest of changes in their weight, teeth, skin or toe nails, so these early indicators of illness can be acted on very quickly and effectively. The Elephants also have regular vet checks to ensure they are maintaining good health.
Zoo keepers also regularly hide the elephants food in and amongst objects in the exhibit so that they have to forage for their food like they would in the wild. This is great exercise as they walk from place to place in their large paddocks.
Caring for the world’s largest land mammals can be challenging, especially as they get older when they are prone to degenerative diseases similar to those older humans suffer. Currently we treat the elephants at the Zoo for degenerative joint diseases using nutritional supplements such as Glucosamine every day. These diseases are common with older animals and the elephants have responded well to this treatment.