A visual health assessment of captive Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) housed in India.

Research paper by Anand A Ramanathan, Avanti A Mallapur

Indexed on: 19 Jul '08Published on: 19 Jul '08Published in: Journal of zoo and wildlife medicine : official publication of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians


A visual health assessment and survey questionnaire was conducted on 81 Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) housed in 10 animal facilities throughout India between November 2004 and February 2005. The survey questionnaire consisted of 10 questions that evaluated the health of the elephants, and they were completed after visually assessing each individual elephant. The information collected was ranked on a scale that was used to statistically compare the health among the study subjects. This study documented that 43.21% of the captive elephants surveyed exhibited hyperkeratosis. A significant proportion of the elephants owned by tourist camps had poor skin condition when compared with elephants from zoos and at a forest camp. Similarly, captive-born individuals were found to have better skin condition than animals that were caught from the wild. Sixty (74.1%) of the captive elephants that were observed during this study had fissures in their footpads, 20% of which were severe. The prevalence of foot fissures was significantly higher in females. A greater proportion of elephants owned by tourist camps displayed vertical and horizontal toenail cracks in comparison with the forest camp and zoo elephants. It was noted that 76.9% of the wounded animals and 80% of those having abscesses were housed at temples and tourist camps. Also, approximately 8.5% of the captive elephant population observed during this study had eye-related problems, and they were all housed at temples and tourist camps. In conclusion, it was evident that elephants housed at temples or tourist camps exhibited poor skin condition with wounds and abscesses. These findings suggest that the overall condition of the elephants housed at tourist camps was poor compared with elephants housed at zoos and at the forest camp.