For those of you who love and care for Ramba, we figured we would give you a little update on how she is doing. If you don’t know Ramba, check out her story here. Fall is beginning to peek its head around the corner so Chile gets a break from its overly toasty weather. It’s still plenty warm enough for Ramba to go swimming, but she has spent a night or two sleeping in the barn on those rainy chilly days.
Ramba is doing well with maintaining her weight. We actually reduced her diet a little, so she wasn’t quite so chunky. Now that we know we can keep weight on her throughout the winter (which was an issue in the past) we decided it was safe for her to drop some pounds. Just like all animals, elephants can become overweight in captivity. With Ramba we need to balance a healthy weight with a few extra pounds to spare, a small buffer incase she has a few off days but not so much that it causes increase pressure on her aging joints.
We are seeing a manifestation of a foot ailment that we observed hints of when she first left the circus. While getting to know her after her rescue, we noticed Ramba had some puss oozing out of the top of one of her nails. As is typical with elephant foot problems, when you see something superficial, there is usually a lot more lying under the surface. Between hard surfaces and sand, their skin hardens, thickens, and dries out, not allowing any infection to escape, and instead of coming out, it goes further within.
When we went back to check on Ramba’s health last year, we did a lot of footwork and again saw signs of a possible internal issue, but still nothing had surfaced. Her caregivers have been working on her feet ever since, and last month we started to see signs that what was brewing would be coming to the surface. Last week one of Ramba’s toenails (the same one we noted initially) developed a crack with a small hole lying underneath. Most likely, the infection tracks deep within that toe. She is being treated accordingly and her caregivers send pictures every few days so we can give recommendations on how to proceed and see how it progresses.
As we’ve mentioned before (see post for information and pictures), elephant foot health is very complicated. The outdated way of treating this problem used to be to dig all of the affected tissue out. Unfortunately, this tissue can easily run 6 inches deep or more. The outcome of this method of treatment is that you damage the integrity of the foot while causing immense amounts of pain to the elephant. This treatment can be completely debilitating and create more issues than you started with. A balance has to be maintained of getting rid of some of the tissue, while minimizing impact on the foot as a whole, and treating with anti-fungals and anti-bacterials to heal and prevent further spreading. Oral antibiotics have shown to be ineffective in treating foot infections, so treatment is topical.
As always, Ramba is very good for all of her treatments. So far she isn’t showing any signs of pain when she walks, digs, or does any of those other elephant things that they use their feet and toes for. Knowing that this was lingering beneath the surface allowed us to keep a constant eye out for any changes with that toe and be ready to treat at the first sign of an issue. After 5 decades of living in a small cement yard (when not traveling on the road) her foot health could be so much worse. But, we will continue to carefully monitor her for any progression.
Otherwise she is as perfect as always. Something we’ve seen in many other elephants, but is new for her, is getting silly and swimming during storms. She actually jumps a little bit if there is a loud boom of thunder (it’s very endearing-short video here). The other week she ran around, throwing dirt and mud, running into the pond and splashing around. She ran out and dusted herself and then started the process all over again.
She continues to become more comfortable and self-confident with who she is, but is missing the companionship of another elephant and expansive space. And as we have seen many times in the past, that leads to a transformation that nothing compares to. If you would like to provide towards the many items needed to care for Ramba, please visit her wishlist.