Individualized Care Means Adapting to Individual Needs

While chronic, progressive conditions such as arthritis are common in aging, captive elephants, Asian elephant Sissy also requires individualized care for a more unique situation: her partially-paralyzed trunk. Sissy does not have full use and range of motion of her trunk, which records indicate may be due to a dental procedure earlier in her life. Both Sissy and her team of Caregivers and Veterinarians have developed adaptations to manage this condition.

For example, at The Sanctuary, we work regularly on several different volunteer body presentation behaviors so we can check the condition of each elephant's feet, tusks, trunk, teeth, ears, and eyes. When an elephant chooses to participate, they are offered food rewards—fruits and vegetables— as positive reinforcement. Most elephants are trained to put their trunks to their foreheads to facilitate the trunk wash procedure, a standard screening to test for tuberculosis. Since Sissy cannot perform this motion, she instead flings her trunk to the top of the barn training wall and rests it on the wall while Caregivers complete the procedure. She's then rewarded with her favorite produce.

Similarly, Sissy will use her trunk to throw the water hose up to her mouth because she cannot hold water in her trunk like most elephants do. She has even learned to test the water first to ensure it is not too warm and can kink the hose to stop water flow if she isn’t ready to drink.

Help Us Build The Elephant Health Care Center

To best serve our resident elephants and those to come, The Sanctuary is preparing to break ground on a modern Elephant Health Care Center. This centrally located facility will expand in-house diagnostics and provide opportunities to share innovations in geriatric elephant care with others.

The total cost for The Elephant Healthcare Center is $1,075,000, which includes the Veterinary Services offices and lab, a two-stall barn with a solar array, and two acres of habitat fencing with a training wall. The Board of The Elephant Sanctuary has set aside the use of $620,000 from operational reserves to help fund this Center. We are asking our generous supporters to help us raise the remaining $455,000 through this campaign.


An anonymous donor has generously offered $150,000 in matching funds to help us reach our goal of $455,000 by September 2018. We hope you will partner with us to create this modern facility specifically designed to meet the needs of aging captive elephants.

Share This Article