Elephants who arrive here at Elephant Sanctuary Brazil are rarely in the best of health. After decades of work with elephants, we practice an approach to their medical care that attempts to take every aspect of their well-being into consideration. All of our animal residents (elephants, rescue and release, even dogs and cats) are evaluated using a holistic approach, which means we take into account the whole of the individual and not just any symptoms of illness they display. For instance, if you had a headache everyday, you would likely want your doctor to find out what’s causing your headaches rather than just telling you to take an aspirin. That is how we approach healing. To do that we use traditional medicine and supplement it with other therapies.
All of the veterinarians here have studied and use traditional medicine – and that is the route we generally turn to first to maintain an elephant’s health. We also have an integrative veterinarian and a team of outside vets we consult with. Because of the complexities of elephants, we find that taking advantage of the knowledge and experience of others offers us the best approach. In certain instances it is also beneficial to look at care methods that include alternative medicines or therapies. One of the primary reasons we might consider other therapies is that traditional medicine doesn’t offer the same options for care when it comes to elephants as it does for smaller animals, or even farm animals. There currently are deficient standardized treatment protocols for numerous ailments/diseases and limited commonly accepted dosages for medicines.
Like humans, elephants can have difficulties or complications with some traditional medicines. Of course, if an elephant has an infection, we will turn to antibiotics first, but we know that those also come with risks. In some instances where the desired response isn’t brought about by traditional therapies, we will see positive results from the use of acupuncture, laser therapy, natural remedies like herbs, plant medicines, essential oils, and other homeopathic treatments. If used properly, the side effects of natural medicines are almost none when compared to traditional medicines. The combination of the two approaches gives the elephants the best opportunity for comfort, longevity, and true healing.
We always weigh the pros and cons and the overall impact each approach will have on individuals. Our experience tells us that the way to provide the most comprehensive care for the elephants here is to look at the big picture. That, in combination with their new, natural surroundings and natural diet, has the greatest impact on their quality of life in the long run.
Photo of Rana and Mara