The health of the elephants in our care is always our priority. We monitor them for any changes in their physical state or behaviors and proceed accordingly.
They also get regular “checkups,” which includes doing annual blood work. If we see any reasons for concern or notice any changes in their bloodwork, we increase the frequency of testing to monitor changes. Looking for shifts in bloodwork allows us to adjust their diet, supplements, and treatment regimen as needed.
Last week was Maia’s turn for her annual bloodwork. Elephants have very thick skin over most of their body. The most accessible places to take a blood sample are their ears.
Maia went in the chute easily (as always), but once we scrubbed and alcoholed the vein we chose, she got a little fidgety and seemed nervous. We stopped what we were doing, and did her regular chute routine of a tick check and treats. She settled quickly into that. Once completed, we pulled out elephant kryptonite (nope, not peanuts – Fruit Loops) & approached her ear for a blood draw. She did great. We fed her a steady stream of Fruit Loops once the needle was in (and Fruit Loops make any “annoying” human request worthwhile). We were able to get everything we needed on the first try.
As soon as we finished, we gave her a giant watermelon and opened the chute. In Maia fashion, she tried to shove the entire watermelon in her mouth at once and wandered off to enjoy the rest of the day.
Her blood samples were run in-house and also hand-delivered to a lab for additional information. The lab is located several hours away (in Cuiaba, which is also the nearest airport), so we always coordinate blood draws with trips to the “big” city.
As expected, all of her blood work – both our in-house panels and the ones from the lab – came back completely normal, and she is doing great for her age.
Video is of Maia walking around the pond in Yard 4. (The sound in the background is frogs.)