Toledo Zoo Lends A Helping Hand To Wildlife SOS’ Elephants

August 17, 2015 | By wildlife@dmin
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At Wildlife SOS, the welfare of the animals we rescue is our topmost priority, and we assign immense value to our dedicated veterinary staff, that works hands on with our animals to help them recover from their past traumas and learn to trust people again. Skilled, dedicated veterinarians with open hearts and ready hands play a vital role in helping address some of the biggest welfare challenges we face today.

Wildlife SOS would like to extend its gratitude to the Toledo Zoo for supporting our Elephant Project and making it possible for us to hire the perfect addition to our veterinary team, who is helping provide the finest, professional care and unconditional love to the animals we rescue.

The condition of captive elephants in India is extremely heartbreaking, with animals being trained and kept under extremely brutal conditions, resulting in negative repercussions on their physical and psychological health. When they are not walking for long hours in the scorching heat on tarred roads, working elephants are standing for hours on end during temple rituals with no water. Elephants in circuses are forced to perform physically stressful and unnatural acts for the amusement of an audience, and suffer an intensive and torturous training process to this end. Many suffer from abscesses, foot injuries and ankush or bull-hook inflicted injuries, as well as malnutrition, arthritis and a host of other problems, and nearly all of them need immediate medical attention which they rarely receive. Wildlife SOS works tirelessly to rescue and rehabilitate these animals from the devastating conditions they are forced to live in, providing lifelong general and veterinary care to them at their rescue centres.

Sponsored by the extreme generosity of the amazing people at Toledo Zoo, Wildlife SOS hired Dr. Vibha Raghuram, an extremely proficient veterinarian with devoted commitment to and inspiring passion for her work.
Dr. Vibha has pioneered the training of our mahouts (elephant keepers) in the required methods of management of the elephants in their care, incorporating knowledge of their natural behavior and biology into the management system. She has been instrumental in the introduction of positive conditioning and target training for the animals, which has played an important role in fortifying the healthy relationship between our elephants and their mahouts. This training process involves positive reinforcement for the elephant when it complies to verbal commands provided by the trainer. Put simply, the elephant is rewarded with a treat and lots of affectionate encouragement when it does what the veterinarian or keeper asks it to do. Excited at the prospect of getting a treat, the elephants have responded encouragingly to this training, and this has significantly enhanced the ease of veterinary diagnosis and care, as the elephants cooperate willingly during examination and treatment. Treatment is now possible without sedation, restraint or making the elephant lie down. Under Dr. Vibha’s guidance and with this eager cooperation of the animals, all the elephants at the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre also receive much needed daily foot care by way of medicated foot baths and trimming of cuticles.

The stress-free nature of the current method of veterinary care has resulted in our elephants showing significantly better responses to their treatment.

This has all been made possible thanks to the kindness and generosity of Toledo Zoo, and we remain extremely grateful to them for helping us provide these gentle giants all the love and care they need and deserve.

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