El Paso, Texas (September 25, 2013) El Paso Zoo's Asian elephant, Savannah, turning 61 years old this month, is receiving special care from staff at the El Paso Zoo. Savannah is currently receiving treatment to help her with stiffness in her left elbow.
"Joint problems are common in geriatric animals. We are committed to continuing to tailor Savannah's care to keep her comfortable and do all we can for this and any other problems that arise as she gets older," said Zoo Veterinarian Victoria Milne.
The median life expectancy of a female Asian elephant is about 47 years. According to records, only three other female Asian elephants in North America are older than Savannah.
Visitors may notice Savannah swinging her leg outward to walk, but staff says she isn't showing signs of pain. She continues to lay down on sand mounds in her indoor living quarters and outdoor habitat. Sand mounds make it easier for elephants to lay down and get up.
Savannah has been receiving traditional and alternative treatments such as hydrotherapy and laser therapy as well as joint supplements and, on occasion, anti-inflammatory medication caused by arthritis. The hydrotherapy consists of warm water applied to the affected area three times daily. The Zoo's Veterinarian gives her laser therapy every other day with a therapeutic cold laser applied to the area around her elbow. The laser activates cells locally to decrease inflammation and pain and improves cellular metabolism. The laser used for Savannah is made for animals and is applied to specific accupoints to help her elbow joints.
Her zoo keepers have also been working with her more, adding training sessions to help her with stretching, flexibility and mobility. Savannah continues to cooperate with daily training, which includes presenting her feet and ears to keepers and has continued with her normal daily activities.
"She's enjoying the extra attention and she's motivated to get better; that's why we're working with her so much," said Elephant Area Supervisor Gabriel Moya. "She has to want to take part in the treatment; we don't make her do anything. After all, she's 8,000 pounds."
Animal care staff will continue to monitor Savannah's progress and her treatment. Staff has noticed that she's getting the best results from stretching, but they will continue with the therapies as long as they see progress. She has been receiving these therapies for about three weeks.
"We do not expect an overnight response with this type of problem, it's going to take a while to determine if the hydrotherapy and laser therapies are working," said Zoo Associate Veterinarian Misty Garcia.
For now, Savannah and Juno, the Zoo's other female elephant, will be in separate areas of their exhibit. They have access to see each other and touch each other through doors, but will not have full contact to allow Savannah to heal.
Asian elephants are listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List.
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