Bambi’s Foot Care at Sanctuary

The very act of changing an elephant’s environment and welcoming them to sanctuary can be enough to change the state of their health, particularly when the elephant is coming from an unfit environment. We have seen this happen time and again. An emotional change begins to happen very quickly, while physically, the body gradually comes back into balance over time. 

Many issues in captivity might lead to an early death in elephants, because so often those environments don’t meet their basic needs. A healthy elephant should be grazing for 15-18 hours a day, walking on natural substances like dirt, mud, wet areas, and dry areas (instead of concrete and sand). The combination of those varied surfaces nurtures their feet in a way that would happen in nature. The fact that this doesn’t often happen in captivity means that foot problems are common. The combination of foot infection, osteomyelitis, and arthritis make foot and joint issues one of the leading causes of death in captive elephants. 

We examine each elephant’s feet here at ESB and some maintenance is required; more care is necessary for elephants like Lady, while less might be needed for Maia, whose feet are in a better state. But the mere environment here can improve their feet and reduce the amount of footwork they need. We take detailed before and after pictures of the elephants and make medical notes each time we work on their feet in order to evaluate their progress and keep them in their records.. 

The photos of Bambi’s feet immediately after her arrival, accompanied by fairly recent photos, show a remarkable amount of improvement of her cuticles and overall foot health. Her foot pads are wearing properly and her nails are being worked down by digging in the dirt and using them to cut grass. This is a simple concept, but one that is sadly missing from so many captive environments. Sanctuary gives elephants what their bodies need. While Bambi still has a ways to go with her emotional healing, it is encouraging to see that many of the physical issues we were concerned about before arrival were merely a product of her captive life, and not anything that required significant medical intervention. Nature itself can help some issues resolve themselves. There is simply no substitute for it. 

These photos of Bambi’s feet speak for themselves. 


  1. REPLY
    Briget Lemen says

    Thank you for sharing so much information. On a recent trip to our zoo in Wichita, Kansas USA, I found myself evaluating the condition of our elephants feet. Glad to say from a distance they looked great. It is only because of your education that I would have even thought of looking out for particular issues.

  2. REPLY
    Patricia says

    I love you, Bambi! xoxoxo Your feet look SO much better. I am so grateful for your sanctuary folks who have helped you so much. Hugs to all of you!

  3. REPLY
    Elaine Decker says

    She will always be my favorite……don’t even know why??

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      It’s okay. Sometimes there is no why.

  4. REPLY
    Kenneth B. Newman says

    Is the photo on the right the picture of her feet when she arrived at GSE? Please confirm the latest photo and her much better feet.

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Yes, the photo on the right (of the unhealthy foot) is what she looked like when she arrived at ESB. The photo on the left is a current photo that shows her healthy foot.

  5. REPLY
    Angie Gibson says

    I’m so happy to see Bambi flourishing and it does my heart good daily to know that all the Girls are receiving the best care and so thoroughly enjoying their tropical paradise! Thanks for all the photos and video updates ❤️

  6. REPLY
    Carol says

    Amazing improvement. And she must feel so much more comfortable now…physically AND emotionally! 💖🌸💖

  7. REPLY
    Alice says

    What a tremendous difference! Does Bambi require foot soaks and trimming, or did this all occur from her improved environment? So glad to see and know what you do for these deserving eles!

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Bambi doesn’t require foot soaks or much maintenance. What’s in this photo is what Mother Nature can do!

  8. REPLY
    Charlotte Hansen says

    I remember how scared Bambi was to explore her travelling crate when Scott arrived to rescue her, and now to see her healing and thriving makes me want to weep with joy! Thank you for this post–it’s very fascinating to learn about the elephants’ different body parts and how they improve in sanctuary.

  9. REPLY
    Tammy says

    Her foot also looks swollen from infection? It sure looks nice and healthy now wow great job everyone. So sad having bad feet on an elephant supporting all that weight has got to be extremely painful too…..

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      It certainly can be painful, depending on what’s wrong. Luckily, Bambi doesn’t seem to have any concerns in that department.

  10. REPLY
    Sandi Paquet says

    Poor Bambi, her feet looked horrible when she first got there! So much better now after you guys started caring for her. You have a great place for elephants; just wish all of them could experience the Sanctuary. Thank you for what you do. You and the team are the best!

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Thank you, Sandi!

  11. REPLY
    Maria Richter says

    Beautiful, astounding transformation to the way an elephant’s feet should be! (I learned from GSE the importance of caring for the feet of animals who carry multiple tons on them – an obvious need generally overlooked in captive elephant care.) What an impressive job! So thankful that Bambi and friends have the good fortune to live as elephants should at GSE!

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