Why our Asian elephant veterinary care program is needed

Posted by on Feb 12, 2017 in All Things Veterinary Medicine

Why our Asian elephant veterinary care program is needed

While visiting various sites and meeting different mahouts at the Surin Elephant Kingdom, we came across Plai, a down elephant. The sad part is he had been down for 2 days, suffering from a combination of chronic arthritis, bone disease and malnutrition. The concern for lung collapse and organ failure is high due to compression, as having 5 tons of weight squeezing organs and limiting blood supply will take its toll. Fortunately Dr. Nut Bangkaew from the livestock department came to give Plai about 100 litres of fluids, electrolytes and sugars daily, but it took 2 days to get a crane to come. Something VI will be putting on our wish list. 

The bottom line is, had this community had a full time elephant veterinarian, preventative measures would have been put in place so the chances of this elephant collapsing would be very low.

Dr. Nut treating Plai and preparing his harness

Plai had a crane come overnight to stand him up.


The next morning, Plai was up, partially hoisted, eating and flapping his ears with his mahout applying traditional medicine to his wounds and swollen leg.


It was fascinating to watch the elders make a herbal remedy which included garlic, onions and turmeric amongst many other ingredients. Onions and garlic carry anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, while turmeric can help for arthritis and bone pain.



We left Plai to go back to ZPO’s headquarters, the Dusit Zoo and discuss ideas and plans. It was an honour to be reunited with Dr. Parntep, one of the most respected wildlife veterinarians in Thailand and recognized as an authority in elephant conservation, Dean of Mahidol Vet School and Chair of ZPO’s board of directors. I am very proud to say he will be an advisor for our Vet Care Program.

Taking a moment away from work: Dr. Boripat, Director of Vets International's Asian elephant vet care program with John Roberts and Dr. Scarlett

And after all our efforts, we are thrilled to show you our two Mobile Elephant Clinics, which were presented to Dr. Parntep and his staff at the Dusit Zoo.

Dr.Scarlett handing over of the trucks to Dr. Parntep and the ZPO team

photo credit: Dr. Don and Kim Toothman


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