EleFact Friday: Healthy Skin

Because several elephants at sanctuary have experienced skin issues, and we have received numerous questions, we are focusing this week’s EleFACT on skin health and how it impacts overall health. 

Though an elephant’s skin is thick, it is also sensitive to the elements. In the wild, or in proper habitats, they can use mud or dust baths to protect themselves from the sun. Mud and dust can also keep the skin flexible and in good condition. Elephants who don’t have access to those things can develop skin problems like calluses, dermatitis, ulcers, and hyperkeratosis (thickness of the outer layer of skin). Those who spend significant time indoors can see these problems amplified when skin dries out. Studies show that opportunities for bathing, wallowing, dusting, and scratching can prevent many common captive skin ailments. 

Elephants who stand or lie on hard surfaces can experience skin irritation, lesions, or abscesses – which we have seen with some elephants here. When bony areas like those on the hip or face come into contact with solid substrate, like floors or walls, problems can emerge and need treatment for an extended amount of time. 

Bambi, who arrived with a thick layer of dead skin, needed about a year to shed all of it – and now her skin is beautiful. But it required lots of natural intervention and plenty of baths to resolve itself. After shedding dead skin, a layer of not-quite-healthy skin emerges before you finally see a layer of normal and robust skin. Pocha arrived with significant skin issues, including a fungal infection on her tail, which we began treating soon after her arrival. Pocha and Guillermina have similar skin issues to those we saw with Bambi (though not as severe), but we are seeing gradual improvement. It will continue to get better now that they have access to all of the natural elements the sanctuary provides and that they are meant to have as a species in the natural world. Skin issues have a slow healing process and, although medical intervention is necessary in many cases to get things heading in the right direction, nature is often the best long-term medicine. 

Photo of Bambi and her lovely skin


  1. REPLY
    Pam says

    Thank you, GSE, for taking such amazing care of these beloved elephants. And thanks, Sara, for another interesting and well-written EleFACT!

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Thank you for following us! We always enjoy hearing from you.

  2. REPLY
    Charlotte Hansen says

    Are Lady’s poor feet basically a skin condition, or completely different? Elephant feet seem kind of complicated! Thank you for all of this amazing information you give us every day!!

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Lady has a degenerative disease called osteomyelitis, which is an infection of the bone. It can’t be cured, but we do our best to make sure she stays comfortable. And, yes, elephant feet are very complicated.

  3. REPLY
    Deb says

    Once again I am reminded that these ladies have “hit the jackpot” being under your care & living in such a beautiful environment! 🐘🐘🐘🐘🐘🐘🐘💝

  4. REPLY
    Janine Proctor says

    Thank you for this very useful information. Elephants truly are gentle giants🐘❤️

  5. REPLY
    Care says

    That was interesting having seen Bambi’s skin when she arrived, she does indeed have beautiful healthy skin now, so smooth in that area that was all lumps and bumps bless her. I am sure Pocha and Guille will also have the same wonderful skin in due course. Good luck with that.

  6. REPLY
    Charlotte Hansen says

    Thank you Sara, for your reply about Lady’s poor feet. Wow! I know everyone is doing their very best for her and I’m guessing she knows they’re doing everything they can. Thank you, Kat for your kind care of our Lady!!

  7. REPLY
    Nancy says

    Bambi looks Gorgeous !!

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