Veterinary students at the University of Guelph spent their summer travelling around the world helping animals! One of the stops on their trip was the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand. Get all the details on their daily adventures and see what being a vet to these massive mammals is all about.
Once we arrived the parkâ€™s friendly staff and our fellow volunteers welcomed us. Next we were given an orientation, which included an introduction to the animals. Here are some of the elephant facts we learned.
- Elephants have the same life expectancy as humans
- Elephants bathe in mud to help protect their sensitive skin from burning and to keep the bugs away
- Male Asian elephants weigh up to 4500kg, while female Asian elephants weigh up to 3500kg
- African elephants are larger then Asian elephants; they have bigger ears and often have larger tusks
- An elephantâ€™s age can be approximated by looking at their ear folds
- Â Elephants are very social animals, with a broad range of emotions and personalities
We started today by doing treatments on some of the elephants. First up was Mae Tee, a 60-year-old elephant with some bad foot injuries, which need to be cleaned twice a day. Cleaning an elephantâ€™s foot is not an easy job, it can be dangerous and requires a lot of patience.
After lunch we had the opportunity to help Lucky, an older circus-trained elephant. She requires eye medication due to her spotlight-induced blindness caused by the time she spent in the circus. The day ended on a happy note, we were allowed to approach a baby elephant that was protected by her mother and nanny, and feed her bananas.
Today Dr. Jenny, a wildlife veterinarian from Los Angeles, did acupuncture on an elephant named Me Do, who suffers from severe skeletal deformation of her hind legs. Dr. Jenny hoped that this acupuncture treatment would help relive some of the pain.
We headed to the kitchen this morning to help the veterinarians who are planning on trying different types of feed for the elephants with digestion problems. Many older elephants have few teeth left so they have a hard time chewing and digesting grass and bananas. As an experiment we made banana balls from mashed bananas mixed with chopped grass, corn and rice husks. The banana balls were fed to some of the older elephants who ate them all up, weâ€™ll have to wait and see if this new food will help their digestion.
Today while trying to do foot cleaning for elephant mom Sri Prae we were delayed a bit by her baby Navaan. The baby elephant wanted to nurse, since adult elephants are very protective of their babies we did not want to disturb the mom as she suckled her young. Once Navaan was done feeding we focused on keeping her busy! If while taking care of Sri Praeâ€™s feet Navaan tries to ram one of the vets it can be very dangerous so we kept this young elephant distracted with lots of attention and bananas.
Two weeks with the animals went by so quickly. We stared off our final day with our usual routine, cleaning Mae Teeâ€™s feet. Today her trainer was away so she was giving us a hard time. To help put her in a better mood one of the vets ran to the elephant kitchen to get some watermelon. Once Mae Tee was given a delicious watermelon treat she cooperated much better.
We learned a lot about elephant care during our stay at the Elephant Nature Park and hopefully our blog has inspired you to continue learning about elephants and other wildlife. Find out more about the Elephant Nature ParkÂ and if you are hoping to go to vet school or are interested in working with wildlife read about our program, Global Vets, at the Ontario Veterinary College.