Over the past few weeks, Mara has been consistently doing a little better in terms of eating. She is still not eating a “normal amount,” nor is she eating enough to maintain her current weight. Although her weight loss continues, we are pleased to see her eating more—and more consistently.
Late nights are still when we see her best appetite, and she’s eating pretty well at night recently. That said, elephants should eat for 18 hours a day (mostly grazing), which is not what we see with her. She is eating a greater variety of foods throughout the day than we’ve seen over the past few months. There are many things that she hasn’t eaten in a long time that she is now eating again, such as carrots.
She is still not taking oral medicine consistently. Her new treatment regimen includes a daily pain medication injection. It’s a gentle drug that is safe for long-term use. She does great for the injections. We ask her to come over near a fence and offer her one of her favorite treats. While she eats, we clean the area and give her the shot on her rump, which she generally doesn’t seem to mind. It’s hard to know for sure, but we believe she is associating the “pokes” with feeling better. Elephants tend to link actions with feelings, which can backfire when they don’t feel well. We think this is the reason for Mara’s limited diet, and whenever she doesn’t feel well, she blames the last thing she ate. That same line of thought is working well for her injections; they make her feel better, so she leans in for them without us having to use the medical chute. This behavior means she can continue to wander the habitat and receive her injections along the fence.
Despite our persistent work with world-renowned elephant veterinarians, we don’t have a diagnosis for Mara’s issue. This lack of a diagnosis is due to the limited diagnostic abilities for elephants. Even diagnostic equipment (such as ultrasounds) that work on other large animals cannot penetrate an elephant’s abdomen due to their massive size.
We will remain vigilant with our round-the-clock care, “bonus” meals, affection as solicited, and everything she could need. We continue to monitor her health closely and will share regular updates about her health as we are able.
Even though we can’t state that she is better, we are still pleased to see and share that we observe some improvement in her condition. Emotionally and socially, she is still doing well, and it is evident that she finds joy in her life here, especially her friends.
Photo (left to right): Mara (with a watermelon snack), Rana in the middle, and Bambi furthest away.