We are thrilled to report, that at the end of a cold winter (yes, the winter is just ending in Chile) Ramba is doing really well. With spring weather bringing the return of green grasses, Ramba looks substantially better than she has in years past. Last winter (June-August 2013) Ramba lost hundreds of pounds, and struggled with issues ranging from appetite loss to frequent shivering and failed to bounce back with the warmth of spring. Last December, fearing the worst, we travelled to check on her in an attempt to figure out the reasons behind her declining weight and muscle loss. Along with routine care including footwork and blood draw, we were able to analyze her daily routine, care, food, and make some substantial adjustments to improve her quality of life. This winter, with help from Ecopolis, Ramba’s caregivers and The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, not only did she make it through the winter in good condition, but she actually has a little bit of a belly and is acting like her spunky self.
Ramba is a perfect example of the amount of attention, understanding, and care that goes into taking care of an elephant that is not only geriatric, but has suffered the effects of captivity. There is no set protocol you can implement for an elephant in her condition. Constant changes are made to her routine, her diet, and her care- all dependent upon what is going on with her in that moment. Things are constantly changing and evolving, and we remain in daily contact with her caregivers to ensure her care does the same. Captivity ages an elephant in ways that do not occur in the wild and available veterinary treatments and protocols are limited, and many times, nonexistent. Unfortunately, the illnesses that are created by a man-made environment go untreated by the humans responsible for their existence.
Ramba has kidney issues, which is something generally not treated in captivity. We are using different avenues to try to extend her life and help support her bodily functions. If you look at her right now, you would have no idea of her health issues, and that is how we want her to stay. She is receiving herbal supplements that aid her kidneys’ ability to flush out toxins and help reduce dangerous levels that can build up in her blood stream. Ramba is also receiving a homeopathic remedy that aids both her kidney and liver function and supports her immune system. Her diet was examined and adjusted to reduce protein levels and the stress it causes on her organs. A water heater was installed to ensure more than adequate water consumption, due to the fact that she (like many elephants) prefers to drink warm water. Numerous adjustments were made, both large and small, to do everything we possibly could to make daily functions as gentle as possible on her body. All of the daily processes of the body that we take for granted, can be a struggle for her.
Ramba is an amazing elephant who had a very rough life, and her days in the circus have definitely taken a toll. We can’t change the past, but we can work towards not only making her comfortable and supporting her health, but also giving her back many of the ‘elephant’ things she has lost. Although Ramba is much better off now than when she was in the circus, there is still much missing from her life. Ramba is still alone, a fate that we don’t wish on any elephant. She is also being kept in a small enclosure (less than 2 acres,) which she has somewhat decimated in the time she has been at the park. This housing was only meant to be temporary until she was able to make it to a sanctuary. Her two willow trees are now just stumps, the dirt walls of her pond have fallen in and created a giant puddle of muck, and from repeatedly urinating in the same small area, some of her grass has become inedible. Ramba’s caregivers are doing all they can, providing fresh cut grasses daily along with willow and bamboo, but there is only so much that can be done in a limited environment. Ramba needs what every captive elephant not only needs but deserves; a life of sanctuary, companionship, and a forever home to live out the rest of her life wandering, grazing, and doing the many unexciting things that elephants truly enjoy and make all of our and their hearts smile.
We are still hoping for Ramba to become the first resident of Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, so we can continue to dedicate our time to her care and know that she never has to endure another winter. Elephant Sanctuary Brazil is planning to send a letter of intention so we can move forward with the process of obtaining custody of Ramba, enabling us to bring her to Brazil once the facilities are ready. We are estimating that it will take approximately the same amount of time for the paperwork and permits process as it will for the first phase of development, if sufficient funding can be raised. What this past winter has shown is that Ramba truly needs an extremely dedicated level of care in order to remain healthy. These needs will continue to constantly change, and we want to be there to support her through all of it.
To read more about Ramba, go here. Please post any questions you have regarding her care, her health issues, or any of the implemented treatments being used- we encourage any and all learning in regards to elephants, the learning curve never stops.