Determining the age of an elephant is useful when ascertaining whether or not an elephant fits with the age given on the Registration Certificate. Usually determining the approximate age of an elephant is possible with young and elderly elephants. In elephants in the middle age group there is room for much error. The characteristics are as follows:
Skin fits tightly. Temples are smooth.
Skin fits tightly. Temples are slightly depressed
Temples are deeply concave.
No curl at top of ear. No tears at bottom of ear.
Forward curl at top of ears. Some tears at bottom of ear.
Deep forward curl at top of ears. Many tears at bottom of ear.
Thick, taut, smooth, and unblemished. Supple to the touch.
Thick and not very wrinkled. Supple to the touch.
Wrinkled, droopy, rough and dry.
Flabby and weak.
Feet and nails
Circumference of foot and ankle are about the same. Toenails are smooth.
Circumference of foot is a bit larger than the ankle. Toenails are smooth. Footpad is not cracked.
Circumference of foot much larger than ankle. Toenails are spread apart. Toenails are chalky/rough.
Not knotted/kinked. Tail hairs are orderly.
Not knotted/kinked. Tail hairs are orderly.
Knobby. Missing tail hair.
Coarse, with undigested leaves or even bananas.
Most female domesticated elephants begin to come into heat starting at about 9 years old or later and enter their 'heat cycle which has a length of about 16 weeks or 4 months. Thus, in a period of one year, the average female elephant will be able to breed and become pregnant only about three times in a year. Elephants do not show any blatantly obvious external physical signs that clearly indicate that they are in heat, which is different from other animals such as cattle, pigs and dogs, which have swollen genitalia or secrete blood or mucous when they are in heat. Therefore the mahout must very carefully observe and notice subtle differences in behaviour.
A good mahout will always know when his cow elephant is in oestrus. If a female is in heat, males will use their trunks to frequently smell the females sexual organ or her urine. If you are a skilful observer you will see that the cow elephants vulva slackens or droops a bit and she dribbles urine often. Many cows will repeatedly swat their tail against their vulva and some will then lift the tail into the air, as if advertising. Sometimes cows ready to mate will show excitement, irritation, cry out and even cause damage to other elephants nearby. Some cows will secrete a modest amount of a clear, mucous-like fluid. If an elephant exhibiting such behaviour is mated, there is a very high chance for pregnancy.
For accurately determining if the elephant is in heat, it should be inspected every day. The best time for inspection is in the morning before the elephant is sent to work. Especially in large camps this can be done by lining up all the females of breeding age, presenting their rumps, and then having a bull 'sniff test each cow. If a cow is in heat, the bull will show great interest and be determined to use his trunk to smell.
Determining heat [oestrus] is often not useful unless there is a good breeding bull already present. In cases where there is no breeding bull, by the time you have determined heat it is usually too late to arrange for a sire, arrange for transportation, and, most importantly, to give the two animals time to feel comfortable with each other before actual breeding takes place.
Thus, it is predicting when heat will occur rather than determining heat which already exists that is truly useful to an owner who wants to breed his cow. The period between heats is on average about 16 weeks (112 days), but many elephants will cycle slower or faster than that by a few days or even weeks. Luckily, there is a way to predict, within a week or two, when a cow will probably come into heat.
1. When your elephant comes into heat the first time
2. When your elephant comes into heat the second time
Knowing the likely day of heat, some weeks before this date you can arrange for a sire, transport the cow to the bull (or vice versa), and have a week or so for the animals to get to know each other before heat sets in.
This method of prediction will usually work quite well but it can be wrong, particularly if the cow has been ill, been overworked, been poorly fed, or been psychologically upset, such as moved to a new site she does not like or exposed to another elephant she does not like.
Usually before setting two elephants to mate, it is best to give the pair an opportunity to get to know each other and to both get in the mood. If they do not like each other enough, it is possible that they will do damage to each other or that the bull will try to 'rape the female, possibly even killing her. Normally, females prefer the larger and older males. Some females do not like males with tusks.
You should not pair elephants that are related as the calf is likely to be feeble or deformed.
The place selected for the elephants to mate should be peaceful, quiet, shady and near a stream or water. The period of time where the elephants will be interested in mating is anywhere from one week up to a month, depending on the desire of the male and the willingness of the female.
The bulls tethering chain should be tied so as to be very long. The female should be unchained in order to prevent a frustrated bull from damaging her if she is not willing to mate.
Before mating the elephants will engage in courtship behaviour. The male will use his trunk or his tusks to push the female so as to get her in front of him. The female will use her trunk to smell or touch the males penis, and the male will use his trunk to do the same to the females sex organ. When the male has a full erection, the penis will be distorted into an 'S shape (1.5 to 2 metres in length). The male will mount the female from behind, and each congress will normally last between one and two minutes. At first, the elephants are likely to mate up to ten times a day but after a while this will reside to two or three times a day. Mating usually occurs in the morning and around dusk, when the temperature is cool. (While elephants are mating, mahouts and other people in the area should be very quiet; do not make noises or do activities that might disturb the elephants.)
After a period of mating, some bulls will go into musth and if this happens, the male should be taken away immediately if the situation seems dangerous or if the male cannot be controlled.
Selection of breeding animals
Aged between 20-50 years
The body should be massive, well-configured, and robust. When the elephant walks, his muscles should bunch up. Folds on the skin should not droop.
No wounds or physical deformities, such as limping.
No bad personality, such as is suggested by much swaying of the head
Not particularly aggressive, such as having a history of attacking mahouts or other elephants
With a strong sexual urge, shown by having the penis descend from its sheath often and showing that it wants to mount when females are near
Has a reputation of being a good breeder and of actually fathering calves
No problems with giving birth, such as having aborted, had a difficult delivery, or attacked its own calf
Pregnancy lasts for 20 to 23 months. Most mahouts believe that male calves spend a significantly longer time in the womb than do female calves.
It is very difficult to tell if a female has conceived until very late in the pregnancy, though a good mahout will usually know by observing that his cow has not come into heat again. After one year of pregnancy the breasts and the belly enlarge, and for about a month before birth if you squeeze a breast, a clear fluid will be emitted. Pregnant cows are slow, lethargic, and move in a lumbering manner. Pregnant elephants should not be worked hard because being overworked can lead to a spontaneous abortion. Pregnant cows should be given supplementary food such as bananas, unhusked rice, and rock salt (by grinding up salt from a salt lick to small bits and soaking it in water and feeding it to the elephant or by mixing it with food) but supplementary food or extra food should not be given too late in pregnancy because the foetus can become too large, leading to a difficult delivery.
An elephant near to giving birth should be separated from other elephants. She should be taken to a quiet, shady place that is not steep and has a smooth surface, such as soft dirt or a grassy field. If there is a senior cow elephant that is familiar with the mother, she should be brought near to the mother in order to be the 'receiving mother [mae rab, much like the Indian "Auntie"] in order to comfort the mother and look after the calf at birth.
Most cows give birth during the night. When close to dropping the calf, the mother will show agitation, will not eat or drink water, and will seem to be tired. Sometimes cows will use their trunks to blow grass, sand, dirt, etc., over their backs. The end of the tail tenses up. The elephant will alternatively lay down and stand up and make sounds suggestive of pain. A clear fluid with some blood will discharge from the birth canal. At times the hind legs will be spread wide, much like a triangle. The elephant will lift its tail constantly and the area of the fii yeb [perineum] will be swollen and enlarged for about 3 or 4 hours. The actual birth is a matter of a few minutes.
The newly born calf usually weighs about 70 to 100 kilograms and stands about 80 to 90 centimetres tall.
Either the front feet or the rear feet emerge first in a normal delivery. When the calf reaches the ground it is still largely covered by the foetal sac. The mother will use her feet or her trunk to tear away the sac, and she might use her trunk to blow sand over the calf or use grass to wipe down the calf in order to clear the sac and the mucous. The mother will use her feet to stroke or gently kick the calf to stimulate breathing. Sometimes cows use their trunks to suck mucous and fluid from the amniotic sac from the calfs mouth and trunk. The calf should not be separated from the mother at this time because it can make her scared or angry, even to the point of trampling the calf to death.
The calf will take about half an hour attempting to get to its feet, stand, and walk to the mother in order to nurse. The milk is of the highest quality and is called 'yellow milk [nom nam leuang or colostrum], which has great nutritional value and also antibodies against illnesses. If calves do not get colostrum, which flows for only about the first two days, they will likely be feeble and susceptible to disease. Normally the placenta will be expelled from the birth canal between 1 and 30 hours after the birth.
When the elephant is pregnant the owner should know its history and temperament, such as if it has ever aborted before, ever had a calf before, ever had a calf which died, or ever injured its own calf. If it has ever experienced any of the above, a veterinarian should be present.
Cows that are giving birth for the first time should be watched especially carefully because they are inexperienced and their reaction to the calf is unpredictable. Inexperienced domesticated elephants are likely to become confused by the pain of the delivery and the blood from the birth canal. The resultant fear can cause them to attack and even kill their calves. (With wild elephants, young cows have usually helped their own mother with 3 or 4 calves before they have a calf of their own.)
Choosing the site
The birthing site must be an area that is shady, peaceful, cool, and well ventilated. There should be no people, animals, or vehicles to cause disturbance. The site must be level and free of holes, garbage, sharp and pointed objects, chemicals, and other dangers. There must be a post or a tree to which to chain the mother.
Preparing the people
People who assist in the birth or in caring for the newborn calf must be brave, strong, and intelligent because if the mother turns violent and tries to injure or kill the calf, they must immediately rush in to separate the calf. They must wipe the calf clean and dry and help the calf to stand. At the same time they must control and try to comfort the mother and quiet her down. Then the people must bring the calf closer to the mother to determine if she will accept the calf or not. If the mother accepts the calf and does it no harm, then observe the calf to see if it is able to nurse by itself and if the mother shows love and concern.
Two special preparations are essential for first births and births by cows with troublesome histories:
1. Stay close and observe very carefully, with the mahout having at hand the equipment that he needs to control the elephant. A bamboo spear about two meters long and sharpened to a point should be available; if the cow tries to injure her calf, use the spear to separate her from the calf immediately.
2. Your veterinarian should be informed and be prepared to help if there is a problem and the mother turns aggressive or tries to injure the calf. The veterinarian can use a sedative to quiet her down sufficiently that the calf can usually be safely introduced to her so that bonding might be attempted once more.
The relationship of calf and mother
Usually calves should be kept with their mothers for three years before undergoing training, which is about the time when most cows will wean on their own. Calves will begin to eat food such as bananas and soft grass from about three to six months. Starting from six to eight months calves will eat some of their mothers dung (or that of another adult elephant) to infect themselves with beneficial micro-organisms needed to digest food. During these three years the mother will teach the calf how to find food and how to avoid dangers such as snakes. During this time the mother should not be made to work since this can be dangerous, with the mother distracted and worried about her calf. Further, the calf itself being very "naughty" [son, playful and adventurous], which can easily cause accidents.
In domesticated elephants, weaning at the age of three is best. With really healthy calves, weaning at two is possible so long as excellent food is provided, because a two-year old is able to eat natural food and is big and strong enough to train. Males are temperamentally suited to be separated from their mother earlier than females.
From birth to the age of four months, calves eat only mothers milk.
From the age of five months, calves make attempts at chewing and eating the food that the mother is eating.
From the age of six months, calves will eat the mothers dung in order to infect themselves with micro-organisms that are essential in the digestion of the coarse vegetation that is the staple diet.
From the age of eight months, calves will begin to eat ripe bananas and other soft, easily digested foods.
From the age of ten to twelve months, calves will begin to eat various hard foods, including plants and vegetables.
Still, for the first year of a calfs life, the principal food is mothers milk.
After one year, calves will increasingly eat foods found in nature until the calf is two or three years old. At about three, usually, the mother will instinctively choose to wean the calf and then will come into oestrus and breed. Almost two years later she will give birth to the second calf, meaning that a healthy mother able to breed at every oestrus period will have a calf about every five years. This is true of both wild and domesticated elephants.
In present day Thailand, elephant calves live in, roughly speaking, one of two circumstances. In the first case, in the way of the past, the calf is far off in the countryside and spends much time with the mother in the forest. In such a case, which is much like with a wild elephant calf, the calf will with the mothers help make a switch over to the abundant natural vegetation with little or no need for supplemental foods. As long as the calf is strong and healthy, the usual case, there is no need for mahouts or owners to supply supplemental food.
In the second case, the mother and calf are kept in a tourist camp or other setting where most of their food is supplied by humans. Given this, the food of the calf during the first three years or up until weaning should be soft food that is easily chewed and digested (ripe bananas, peeled sugarcane, etc.) and given in small amounts until the calf is able to eat on its own. Any grass given should be clean and given in small amounts. Elephant calves raised in such artificial environments are far more likely to have problems with nutrition and digestion than calves raised in totally natural settings.
From the age of three, calves can eat the same food as adults although the food should be cut or sliced into smaller pieces so as to make it easier to eat.
Food for orphaned elephants during the first three months
If the mother attempts to damage a newborn calf, or if she is unwilling or unable to nurse it, then the mahout must milk the mother so as to get colustrum that the mahout must feed the calf. (This must be done within twelve hours of birth.) There should be an attempt to find a nearby nursing mother to serve as a wet nurse, but if this is impossible then there is the need to supply milk from another source, usually powdered milk which is easily available in the market place. But the easily available powdered milk types are usually difficult to digest and can lead to feebleness, stunted growth, constipation, diarrhoea, and even death.
1. Powdered milk for infant animals such as the young of cattle, pigs or dogs. Sold in animal supply stores everywhere, it is the cheapest milk available. But cheap powdered milk can cause both diarrhoea and constipation. Before using it, it is best to consult a veterinarian, or if you use it and the calf has digestive problems, stop immediately and consult a veterinarian.
2. Powdered milk for human infants is for sale in shops everywhere but it is expensive and likely to cause diarrhoea by being difficult to digest, as can be noticed through off-white coloured, liquid stool. If this is observed, consult a veterinarian immediately.
3. Powdered formula for human infants with difficulties digesting lactose is made mostly of soy beans. It is more expensive than ordinary infant powdered milk, but sometimes it also causes either diarrhoea or constipation. If so, stop immediately and consult a veterinarian.
4. Formula especially made for elephant calves is best but it must be ordered from overseas.
Many calves die in Thailand every year simply because they are given inappropriate milk that they cannot digest. In selecting the best powdered milk or formula for elephant calves a veterinarian should be consulted.
Mixing powdered milk
In mixing or blending, you must sterilize with boiling water both the drinking vessel and the mixing vessel every time before preparing milk or giving milk. Feeding calves requires very strict attention to cleanliness and sanitation because calves can very easily contract infectious diarrhoea and die. (See Diarrhoea caused by germs, page 119.) In mixing milk, you should very carefully study and follow the instructions printed on the side of the can.
It is very important to not mix in any granulated sugar as this can cause diarrhoea. The calf should also be given multi-vitamins and calcium pills every day.
Calves should be fed small amounts of milk every time but should be fed often. The caretaker or mahout must be with the calf day and night, never leaving it for more than an hour under any circumstances. The elephant must be fed every time it is hungry, which it will show by calling out or walking to the keeper.
Warning to camp managers: Caring for a calf is not a job that you can assign to just any mahout as it is like being the nurse for a sick elephant. Often the best person is an elderly mahout or even the wife of a mahout, as the job requires similar sacrifice needed to care for a human child.
Method of giving milk
There are many methods of giving milk, such as putting a rubber nipple in a milk bottle or using a hose coming from a milk bottle, the hose being long enough to reach past the tongue to the swelling of the throat. Very young elephants should be fed every two or three hours. When they get older, middle-of-the-night feedings can be skipped. After the calf is nine months, four feedings a day are sufficient. Feedings should always happen at the same time every day, changing only rarely, and the feeding should always be done by the same person, as calves will bond incredibly tightly with their care giver. Calves should be fed infant formula until aged 15 to 18 months, after which they can eat only grass and other plants.
If the elephant develops diarrhoea, you should immediately stop feeding milk and as a substitute start giving electrolytes (nam gleua) [cheap and available in all pharmacies], those made from a powder, by adding water. Then consult a veterinarian immediately.
Food for orphaned calves aged 3 to 6 months
After the age of three months, calves can begin on solid foods starting with boiled rice in the following formula:
Ripe bananas (gluay nam waa)
A pinch of salt
* The water should be boiled and then left until cool.
Method of preparation: Boil the rice until it is cooked, then squeeze the ripe bananas into a mush with your hands and add them to the rice and boil further until they are liquid. Add a pinch of salt. Let stand until cool. Feed the calf about 1.5 litres a time two or three times a day, gradually increasing the amount of boiled rice. Be careful not to overfeed or the calf might become constipated.
Also give very ripe bananas three or four times a day by kneading them into a mush. After feeding (whether ripe bananas, or the boiled rice-and-banana mixture, or milk), you must each time use a clean cloth soaked in water to clean up around the mouth. Use this cleaning as an opportunity to carefully inspect the inside of the mouth, because if the calfs mouth or tongue develops sores it will be unable to eat, even to the point of starvation. When feeding calves, the proportion of milk, bananas, and boiled rice must be considered as follows: If the calf has liquid stool or diarrhoea, then reduce or eliminate the milk but if the calf is constipated or has dyspepsia then reduce the boiled rice but increase the milk. Thus, when rearing orphaned calves, the mahout must observe the dung every time the calf defecates. If the stool is loose or has bloody mucous or if the calf is constipated, the mahout must call a veterinarian for treatment as quickly as possible.
Food for orphaned calves aged 6 to 18 months
When the calf reaches the age of six months, you must find dung from a mature elephant (usually it is the calfs own mother) and that dung must be fresh and from a fit, healthy elephant. Offer a lump about the size of a fist to the calf every day for a month or two, leaving it up the calf whether or not it eats it. At the same time, find some Para grass (Brachiaria mutica [Forsk.] Stapf.) or Yaa tawngkong grass so the calf can practice eating. Gradually increase the amount of grass.
For elephants in this age group, beyond the daily milk, boiled rice, and bananas, other supplements are peeled sugarcane, grass, calcium, vitamins, and whatever else the veterinarian stipulates.
Food for orphaned calves aged 18 to 36 months
Calves of this age can be taken off of milk and boiled rice, but they should be given steamed sticky rice with a bit of salt added. Sometimes they can be given sugarcane juice with fresh coconut meat. The major part of the food given should come from the following group:
1. Various grasses, including bamboo leaves and shoots
2. Coconut fronds
3. Banana stalks cut into very short lengths
4. Ripe bananas (kluay nam waa) and sugarcane
5. The cobs (core) of ripe maize [corn]
6. Horse pellets, about 1.5 kg a day, giving two or three fistfuls at a time
7. Various mineral salts, vitamins, supplementary foods, etc., as directed by the veterinarian.
Tips to practice when feeding
1. When giving a food for the first time, give only a little bit and then observe whether it was easily digested or not by later inspecting the stool. If the food is not well digested, then that food should be chopped up, ground up or boiled until well cooked (such as maize [corn]). If the calf gets constipated or gets diarrhoea, then that food should be decreased or stopped entirely.
2. All food given to calves should always be chopped or sliced into small pieces.
3. You must be sure that all food given to calves is fresh, clean, and uncontaminated by toxic elements and chemicals.
After the age of three years, calves can be given ordinary food for adult elephants.
Musth is a natural phenomenon of nearly every healthy male elephant the age of 18 years and above. With some elephants their behaviour and personality do not change, that is they do not become aggressive, but most elephants experience a behavioural shift and become stubborn, dangerous, and aggressive for a period of one to four months until the condition runs its course. The musth fluid that flows has a foul smell and has a grey or dark grey colour.
Aggression can be directed at the mahout, at any and all humans, or at other elephants, even cow elephants. Some elephants will tolerate humans and be aggressive only to other elephants.
Some male elephants from about the age of twelve years and up begin to show signs of musth. If the elephant is in good health and has been receiving abundant food and water, and sufficient rest, that first musth is called "grass musth" (tok man yaa). "Grass musth" [honey musth] is shown by a secretion oozing from the temporal gland and agitation and stubbornness in the animals behaviour. Sometimes such elephants will play very roughly or injure other elephants or their keepers - but this is not the same strength as true musth. Elephants will generally come into true musth about 4 or 5 years after the first "grass musth".
Sometimes female elephants which are fat and healthy will also come into "grass musth", most often when some outside influence makes them nervous or before giving birth. The secretion exuded is greyish and pasty without a particularly bad smell. Beyond some agitation, there are few of the behavioural problems posed by males in true musth.
Coming into musth (1 - 5 days)
The elephants neck will thicken (as felt by the mahout on the neck) and the elephant will seem fatter.
The temporal gland on the forehead swells and seepage begins.
The elephant will resist authority and become stubborn, refusing orders.
The elephants eyes will change to become very alert, staring for a long period of time at the mahout, at other elephants, or at something else.
The penis frequently becomes erect, and the elephant will slap it up into its belly while at the same time urinating in a dribbling manner.
Finally, the elephant becomes listless and begins to eat less.
Full musth (1 - 5 months)
The temporal gland swells greatly, and there is a smelly secretion that exudes in increasing quantity. Sometimes the secretion actually flows into the mouth.
The penis is continually erect, secreting a stinky, mucous-like substance that falls onto the hind legs, making them moist, in a condition called long bawng [green penis syndrome].
The elephant will be aggressive and will not recognize its mahout and elephants it has known. The mahout and others near the elephant must be very careful at all times.
Ending of musth (2 weeks - 2 months)
The elephant is normal.
Preparing for musth
When the elephant shows the very earliest signs of musth, the mahout should chose a site and prepare as follows:
Select a tethering place that is quiet and apart from other elephants.
Critically important is to keep at a distance people who have no duties with the elephant.
The tethering site must be cool and in the shade all day long.
The tethering place should have clean water that flows continually. If this is not possible, it must be possible to bring clean water so the elephant can bathe and drink safely and conveniently every day.
The tethering place must be smooth, with no holes or depressions and no garbage and sharp edges dangerous to the elephant.
Choosing a site on a slight rise is extremely important because that will facilitate drainage of rain, of bathing water, and most particularly of the elephants urine. Good drainage will also minimize the ill effects of foot and nail problems that can arise when a musth elephant is confined for months to a wet or muddy place. Similarly, choosing a site that has soil that absorbs water well is very useful in forestalling foot and nail problems.
For safety, there should be a tree or some other secure tethering point that is strong enough to hold the elephant.
All of the equipment used for musth elephants must be strong enough to withstand the elephants strength and must be readily at hand. Every link in the tethering chain should be carefully inspected, the swivel should be strong and not defective, moving freely. The U-bolt should be oiled so that the post screws easily and securely into the threaded holes.
Consideration should be given to providing musth elephants with special foods.
Diet in musth
When the elephant is in musth, the most appropriate food has low nutritional value, such as banana tree stalks (always cutting it to about a hands length before feeding), green squash (fak khiow), and dried grass (which can be sprinkled with salt water to improve palatability), because such foods have a low nutritional value. When the elephant eats such food, it will feel full very quickly.
Other foods are possible but the amounts given should be decreased from when the elephant is not in musth. High-energy foods such as unhusked rice, sticky rice, etc., should be absolutely avoided.
High-energy foods are in no way dangerous to the elephants physical health, but feeding high-energy foods will ensure that the musth period will endure much longer than if provided with foods with low caloric value. Low value foods in the proper amount will keep the animal in good health and will also give it the contentment of eating and having a full belly.
Warning: It is important that a musth elephant be given sufficient clean water.
When elephants die, the carcass is in one of two conditions, either safe for humans to dispose of or dangerous towards humans or to other elephants. In the first case, where the carcass is "safe", the elephant has died of old age, a bad fall, a bad heart, being struck buy a truck, etc. You can burn or bury the elephant, or even butcher it for the meat, without any worry, although in fact no animal that dies on its own should ever be eaten. (Whether the person reading this thinks eating elephant meat is appropriate or inappropriate does not matter; villagers do it all of the time so the important thing is to do it safely.)
Warning: In any case where an apparently perfectly healthy elephant dies within one or two days with little or no obvious cause, that elephants carcass should undergo a post-mortem by a veterinarian (to ascertain whether or not it died of a dangerous contagious disease).
The second case, where the carcass poses danger to humans or elephants, is where the elephant has probably died of a contagious disease (the different types are discussed below) that can kill people or kill elephants - or both. In such dangerous cases, there are two further types: (1) cases where the elephant has been treated by a veterinarian and you already know the exact cause, and (2) cases where the mahout or camp manager knows or suspects that the elephant has died of a disease but does not know what that disease was.
If the elephant died of what you think was probably a disease, immediately consult a veterinarian and have him do a post-mortem on the animal. Sometimes the veterinarian will be able to tell you the disease immediately, sometimes he will have to take samples to analyse in a laboratory. Only when you know the exact cause of death can you and the veterinarian decide how to safely deal with the carcass.
Warning: Never deal with the carcass of an elephant that might have died of a contagious disease (like anthrax) without a veterinarian first inspecting the animal. (In fact, it is best if every elephant that dies is necropsied by a veterinarian, but whether because of the trouble or the wasted time or the expense, to the mahouts thinking, it often does not happen.) If you ignore this, you can easily kill yourself and everybody who has helped you. Most especially, never sell the meat of such an animal because you could cause many people to die.
Place of disposal: Conducting the post-mortem is obviously the business of the veterinarian but because disposal is usually done at the place where the elephant died, the mahout or the manager is usually the person who ends up selecting the site, and therefore they should consider it very carefully. The post-mortem site should normally be where the carcass will be disposed of, because if not that will mean renting a truck with a crane or a hoist to move the carcass.
The disposal site should be (1) far away from inhabited areas, (2) far from streams, ponds, and natural water supplies, and (3) away from where other elephants or other animals are raised. The three conditions are especially important when the elephant died of certain contagious diseases. Thus, if an elephant is being treated in a place that does not meet the three safety conditions but it looks likely to die, if it can still walk, it might make sense to take it to an appropriate disposal site. This is particularly true with elephants that might have a contagious disease but are being kept in a place that will be used for keeping elephants in the future.
Methods of disposal: According to the national law governing the control of epidemic diseases of animals, carcasses of infected animals must be disposed of as follows. There are two accepted methods of disposing of carcasses, burning and burying. Each has disadvantages and disadvantages.
1. Burning: If there is an appropriate furnace, then burning is very easy; unfortunately, this is rare. Otherwise, the carcass can be burned by piling firewood or old rubber tyres very near it and on top of it. (If firewood is put right against the elephant, escaping steam and gases will interfere with efficient burning and the fire will not be as hot.) Petrol can be used to help start the fire. Personnel should be very careful to ensure that the carcass is completely burned and be very careful that the fire does not spread. The ashes should be buried in the case of contagious diseases.
Burning uses little space.
If rubber tyres are used, the smell is very bad.
2. Burial: The carcass must be buried deeply enough that it will be covered with at least one metre of dirt. In cases of anthrax sprinkle the carcass liberally with lime before filling the hole. All dung, bedding, and even topsoil should also be buried. A fence should be built around anthrax cases because the spores can survive for many tens of years.
Burial is good at stopping the spread of disease.
If a back hoe is used, this method is expensive.
Diseases dangerous to both humans and elephants are anthrax, rabies and tuberculosis. Before contact with a potentially carcass, prepare as follows: (1) wear rubber gloves or, if that is impossible, rub the hands and arms with the head of the tumeric plant before and after contact to counter infection, (2) inspect yourself carefully for cuts and sores and bandage the wounds or, better, do not take part as germs might enter the wound, and (3) any workers ill or not feeling well should take no part because their immune systems will be compromised, making them more likely to contact the disease. Use a mask or cloth to cover the nose and mouth.
Contagious diseases transmissible to humans
Anthrax is primarily an animal disease but it can also infect humans and it is often fatal. Anthrax can be easily contracted through spores entering open cuts or sores, or by inhalation of spores, while disposing of an elephant carcass. Therefore, after the the burning or burial of an elephant, the mahout should bathe very carefully and he should change to new, clean clothing before entering into contact with other elephants. Wear your oldest clothes, because the clothing must be burnt after the work.
The clinical signs of a person infected by anthrax are high fever, vomiting, and respiratory problems. Some cases have erupting sores and/or boils on hands and arms or wherever the organism has entered. Death can follow after 10-15 days.
See Page 123.
Tuberculosis can be transmitted from people to elephants or from elephants to people. Therefore, anybody working on a post-mortem or disposing of an elephant carcass thought to be infected with tuberculosis must take preventative measures to avoid inhaling the germs by wearing a mask.
See Page 128.
Rabies can afflict humans, elephants, and all mammals. The means of infection is through the bite of a rabid animal or by contamination by blood, lymph secretions, or saliva of an infected animal. Any mahout or worker with open cuts or sores should avoid working with the carcass of an elephant that has died from rabies. Rabies in humans is always fatal.
See Page 133.
Internal parasites should be considered. Even though there is no evidence that internal parasites of elephants can infect humans, all of the people involved in post-mortems of animals with worms should be careful. In particular, eating the meat of worm-ridden elephants should be avoided.
Contagious diseases transmissible to elephants
Haemorrhagic septicaemia is highly contagious disease capable of infecting other elephants in a very short period of time. Therefore, anybody who was involved in disposing of the carcass of an elephant which has died of haemorrhagic septicaemia should avoid contact with other elephants or with mahouts until having cleaned his body very carefully and having changed his clothing.
See page 125.
Diarrhoea from contagious diseases may be transmissible through humans, so all workers should bathe carefully and change their clothing before contacting other, healthy elephants.
See Diarrhoea from germs, page 119.
All tools and implements used should be disinfected after use. (See Hygiene, page 66.)