April 2, 2015
Quarantine Barn & Habitat Update
Like many circus elephants, all of the elephants residing in The Sanctuary’s Quarantine (or “Q”) Barn and Habitat were captured wild at a very young age, separated from their families, and shipped to America to spend their lives performing in the entertainment industry. After the USDA settled with the Hawthorn Corporation (which owned all the Q elephants) over multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act involving inadequate care and mistreatment of elephants, 11 female elephants were retired to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee; five remain in the Q group today.
All of the Q Girls had been leased out to circuses, and when not traveling or performing, spent their lives chained in a cramped, dark barn with other elephants. All had known exposure to tuberculosis, necessitating specialized care and treatment for each individual retired to Sanctuary. The Q elephants continue to face challenges that are a direct result of this exposure: some have physical ailments, some continue to be reactive on blood tests for TB-exposure, and some have tested positive for active TB. The Sanctuary therefore keeps these ladies in a completely-separate facility from the Asian and African Habitats [there are no plans at this time to introduce new elephants to the Q Group, or to move individuals from this group], where they receive specialized and individual care in a facility designed to meet these needs.
Since their arrival in Tennessee, the Q elephants’ health status –with particular emphasis on TB– has been monitored for any changes: Of these elephants, Liz, Ronnie and Debbie are currently in treatment for tuberculosis; Billie completed treatment late last year. Caregivers have found a new and tasty recipe for Liz’s medications; she seems to enjoy flax and molasses sandwiches and so has been willingly taking her antibiotics. Ronnie and Deb prefer a simpler oat and molasses mixture.
Frequent monitoring of this group helps to evaluate their disease status, allowing The Elephant Sanctuary to provide optimal, responsive care. A trunk-wash conducted earlier this year as part of ongoing assessment yielded a positive lab-culture for Ronnie and Liz, which means they were actively shedding the tuberculosis bacteria at the time of the trunk-wash.
The Veterinary Team has ordered additional testing to further determine the antibiotics that will be most effective in treating their specific strains of tuberculosis. As additional information becomes available, The Elephant Sanctuary’s integrated Veterinary and Husbandry Team will adjust their ongoing treatment regimen accordingly. Veterinarians will also continue to proactively monitor Ronnie and Liz’s antibiotic drug-levels to ensure a therapeutic and effective treatment status is achieved for them.
Care and Husbandry staff report the elephants are behaving normally: both are eating well, exploring and foraging Q’s 220-acre Habitat, and socializing with their “herd” mates. And Liz, though she arrived at Sanctuary significantly underweight in 2006, appears as healthy and robust as she’s been in over five years.
The Elephant Sanctuary’s integrated Veterinary and Husbandry Team continues to frequently monitor the health of all the elephants in the Q herd; all other elephants’ status remains unchanged.