Elephant foot care poses unique challenges

Zookeepers and veterinarians are always tending to the feet of elephants in captivity because the animals have unique foot care needs.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Modified: November 20, 2010 at 5:29 pm •  Published: November 19, 2010

Elephants in the wild and in captivity have unique feet that are subject to chronic foot problems.

The pads of elephant feet grow in overlapping layers, said Nick Newby, pachyderm supervisor for the Oklahoma City Zoo. Rocks, fecal matter and other objects can become trapped in the folds and cause infections.

Like human nails, elephant toenails can become too long and may crack if left unattended.

So zookeepers give extra attention and care to elephant feet, keeper Shawn Finnell said.

“Elephants both in the wild and at zoos sometimes suffer from foot problems,” Finnell said. “So we just do these preventive things to make sure the feet stay nice and healthy.”

At the Oklahoma City Zoo, keepers examine Asha and Chandra's feet daily. And at least once a week, they file nails and break up the foot pads to loosen any debris.


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