None of the elephants at Elephant Sanctuary Brazil came to us in perfect health, but we have seen each of them heal in so many ways since their arrival. Rana is now in good health for her age, but she has some smaller, lingering issues that still need attention.
Shortly after she arrived, Rana developed a papilloma just outside the corner of her eye. We tried all treatments short of surgery that we knew of – cryosurgery, topical medication, alternative therapies, even cold laser therapy. Most things we attempted would improve her condition, but eventually any progress she was making would plateau. Superficial wounds of most types tend to be slow to heal in elephants.
Rana occasionally opted not to have her eye treatments done. That was totally understandable; the process meant standing very still while we cleaned and wiped her eye, then applied different medications, which all needed to sit for some time before the next step. Rana’s choice to take some days off was totally fine. The papilloma wasn’t affecting her overall health and her autonomy was an important thing to consider.
We began to notice that when Rana took a day off from treatment, the growth appeared to improve slightly. Taking our cue from what her body seemed to be telling us, we started treating her every other day. That seemed to work better, so we moved to every third day to see if that would hasten improvement. Her healing seemed to progress. Ultimately, we ended up adjusting her treatment based on what we observed while examining her. Every 4 or 5 days we would give it a quick cleaning and apply some medication to her eye and it was only then that the healing progress was maintained. At this point, her papilloma is about 95% healed.
Treating animals means using your medical expertise, but also observing closely. You don’t want to take your treatment one step too far if the animal is guiding you another way. Our responsibility is to be medically effective and do as much as we can, but still be flexible to get the results that best improve the wellness of each elephant.