She Is a Very Special Lady ❤️


We know many of you are smitten with Lady, and we feel the same. There is something about her eyes, the hair, and that cheeky smile that melts everyone who sees/meets her. Even when she first arrived, and was still lashing out, it was so easy to get lost in her charm. All of this also makes it easier to forget that her feet are not in good condition.

Lady is doing well, sometimes better than we think she should be feeling. For those of you who don’t know Lady’s story, after a lifetime of circus and zoo, she arrived at Elephant Sanctuary Brazil with her feet in horrific condition- in the top three worst we have ever seen. Once she was trained for foot care and trusted us enough to allow us to work on feet that were clearly painful, a lot of progress was made. The change was drastic, but unfortunately, Lady most likely suffers from osteomyelitis, and we expect her to have foot issues for the rest of her life.

Right now, she has active issues in both front feet, in the 4th nails, which are the ones that had issues in the past. She had a small blowout above her nail on her left foot several months ago. That area resolved, but now under the nail is where the issue lies. On the surface, it doesn’t look that severe, but the worst of it is within the foot. The tissue in that area is soft and a metal feeder tip can be inserted for flushing. That is something that should not be possible. The big concern is we don’t know how far that area spreads since it could be behind all of her toes.

These areas are often a result of dung, debris, and infection being covered up by layers of pad and nail overgrowth and festering within the foot for years. This area could heal, and another pocket of infection could be waiting somewhere behind it. What we find in her feet over time is a direct result of the past decades of foot care, and why foot disease is still a leading killer of captive elephants.

This post is a little heavy, we know, but part of our responsibility is education, and people need to understand the damage that can be caused by the ‘simple’ act of not caring for an elephant’s feet. To introduce a little levity mid-post, some days you wouldn’t know there is anything wrong with her feet. We tease her that Bambi is teaching her bad things, as she has been zooming around the habitat of late. She’s still playful, cheeky, and her spirit is amazing. But it’s hard knowing all of her pain was easily avoidable.

Her right foot is the worse of the two right now, or at least it causes her more discomfort. She generally doesn’t show outward signs of discomfort on it, but you can tell while doing foot care that she would rather bear weight on her left front foot than her right. What is going on with that foot is very similar to the other, but we believe this pocket tracks behind the 5th nail and possibly into that area of the pad.

Although Lady arrived with significant fear and trust issues, she is incredibly cooperative when it comes to her foot care. Her foot soaks are simple, and probably feel good, but she also tolerates trimming, flushing into the soft tissue, and laser therapy among other things. She lets you know when she is nearing a limit in a gentle way, by a slight turn in her nose when she’s holding your hand, or presenting the foot she would rather give you when she knows which one you are asking for. Since she is so good for everything and only does these things after most of the treatment is done, we let her know we hear her, and we adjust accordingly.

We understand that people would love for us to one day give a Lady update that talks about her feet being healed, but that is something we won’t be able to do. They will improve, but at this stage, after so many years of missed care, the best we hope for is longer lulls in anything active and many more good days than bad. Honestly, we are grateful things haven’t been worse. Her feet had the potential to go in a catastrophic direction very quickly. Thankfully that has not been the case and she has been able to enjoy her explorations and soak in the freedoms that sanctuary offers. We wish things were different, but we also know that sadly many elephants around the world suffer as well and will never have their chance at a life of sanctuary. So every smile we see on her face, every little punky thing she does, and every brave step she takes towards making friends makes our hearts a little bigger. She is a very special lady.

Photo of Lady.

December 5, 2020


  1. REPLY
    Debbie Sides says

    She’s special indeed. Amazing that she trusts anyone after years of captivity. Thank you for caring for her. She’s still cute as a button!

  2. REPLY
    Elaine richard says

    What a wonderfully thoughtful post. And yes, no reason not to be straightforward with us about the condition of Lady’s feet. We wish she could heal completely, and are heartbroken, too, about this avoidable situation, but know (as, probably does she) that you’re doing everything in your power to help her.

  3. REPLY
    Bobi StaySee says

    Thank you.

  4. REPLY
    Pam Knaggs says

    Her struggles are real and we understand. Thank you for sharing the good and the realities of their past and current struggles. We love you all for your care and wish we could be there to give you all a hug!.

  5. REPLY
    Alana says

    I rest well at night knowing these girls are in the best hands possible. You are all in my thoughts every day.

  6. REPLY
    Irene olson says

    Thank you for the lesson! My heart breaks when I hear what she has gone thru! Just the love and patience you all show her is obviously the best. She is trusting you! She is such a pretty lady!

  7. REPLY
    Lois Steinberg says

    I am brought to tears. Thank you for her care and sharing with us.

  8. REPLY
    John says

    Oh sure, make me cry!

  9. REPLY
    Wim says

    Beautiful picture showing a gorgeous Lady. Such a shame she carries a heavy health file with every step she takes. Hopefully it will never be a worst-case scenario. So lucky she’s getting very best healthcare. ???

  10. REPLY
    Linda says

    I love how that picture shows her fuzziness so well! Adorable Lady. Thank you for the update, explanations and all the work you do.

  11. REPLY
    Ann-Marie Jacobs-Brown says

    I love Lady!! What pain and suffering she has endured – for what reason? One day, the next generations will hopefully NEVER see – anywhere in the world – blinded, starving, crippled and malnourished captive animals stumbling, terrified, along crowded, noisy streets or locked behind bars in tiny spaces, swaying back and forth or head bobbing simply to endure each day. Sending so much love to brave Lady and wishing peace and happiness to shower down on her every day of her life. I also hope so much she is not in too much pain, which she seems to bear so courageously, And thank you for your information regarding Lady’s situation. Sometimes, amongst all the beautiful elephants in the world, one stands out and touches the heart strings. For many of us it seem, it is Lady. (Although glorious Bambi is coming a close second).

  12. REPLY
    Kelejan says

    We thank you all at GSB for not fobbing us of with the truth that Lady, and so many other elephants cannot be cured in their lifetimes, only alleviated. Many of us remember the elephant Tina from the Vancouver Zoo who died a year later due to the horrendous condition of her feet in spite of all the help she received; it was far too late. I hope that Lady will have a better outcome and that she live many more years .

  13. REPLY
    Bertica Valdes Suarez says

    She doesn’t have time to waste, huh? Cute wise girl having her one year just like she wants it.

  14. REPLY
    Barb says

    Yes, we wish her feet would completely heal but sadly not to be. I choose to think that the thoughtfulness that goes in to her care keeps her smiling and bearing the pain. Just imagining her foot soaks brings me joy. That must make her feel better at least temporarily. Thank you for sharing her story.

  15. REPLY
    Rachel says

    Thank you for the update and the education. I feel conflict in my spirit – on the one hand I’m so sad (and angry) for what the years of neglect did to her physical and mental health; on the other hand I’m so grateful (and happy) that she’s in sanctuary life and finally being lovingly and patiently cared for. Sending prayers and positive vibes her way.

  16. REPLY
    Andrew Pearson says

    I adopted an Elephant with Wildlife SOS in India. One of the people who work their with the Elephants invented a paste from Bannanna’s which can be put onto the bottom of the foot of the Elephant. When this is dry it protects the feet and helps to heal the Elephant foots that have become very sore.

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      Thank you for your concern. We are currently working with someone who worked on one of their elephants in regards to foot issues. Right now, they use a commercial product to fill in the holes and create a protective layer. That works with mild abscessing on the pad of the foot. The filler lasts 5-10 days and then the foot is treated again before covering it up. Lady’s abscesses are behind her nails and quite significant. They would not heal with multiple days without treatment and with her nails kept a little longer, pressure on the area is somewhat relieved and wouldn’t really benefit from a padded covering. We wish there was an easier answer, but some of these feet cases are so difficult.

  17. REPLY
    Tammy says

    All my love and a big belly rub to you amazing brave sweet gentle Lady you light up our lives every single day showing us your warm silly joyful side you go girl!

  18. REPLY
    iris says

    This may be asking for TMI, but why can’t you do surgery to scrape out the destroyed bone and discover where/how deep the pockets of infection are? I’m asking because this is what gets done for humans… and, I know we are not like elephants. It would be good if we could at least be consistently kind and gentle.

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      When minimally invasive, it has been tried (by another facility). Most recently with an elephant unable to rise after surgery due to the damage to the foot and euthanized 3 days later. With the years of treatment Lady has gone without, she most likely has complete degradation of several bones in each foot. Unfortunately, of the many treatments that have been attempted, no one has found something that really works.

  19. REPLY
    Sallie says

    Lady is a Very smart cookie with a wonderfully huge personality, with great internal strength. She gets it, she knows her pains from her past history. She can compensate easily by focusing on other things, like the lovely new green grass, the refreshing water hole and checking out the other Girls, that she finds so interesting and amusing . . . Because of her incredible intelligence, it pains me to know how much she must hurt at times, inside & out, but never makes it a big deal. A great lesson for all of us to take in and learn from . . .

  20. REPLY
    bo says

    They are taking the best care of you all, sweet Lady!

  21. REPLY
    Rosie P says

    Yes, Kelejan, I often think of Tina.
    The human race has a lot to answer for. “They behave like animals” are ways use to describe bad or violent behaviour in human beings. Truth is, if we behaved more like non-human animals the world would be a far better place.
    So I apologise to Lady, to all these wonderful creatures who share this planet with us. I am so sorry for what my kind has done to you and I promise I will do all I can to help you.
    I remember Scott’s words as he prepared Lady for sanctuary. “It’s all for you, Lady, it’s all for you!”
    I love you, Lady. Be strong, be well, precious angel.
    …….and thank you for being so open and honest with us, Kat.

  22. REPLY
    arie says

    Lady is a brave sweet lady and I hope the frequent pedicure treatments she receives will keep her ‘going’ for a long long time with a minimum of discomfort ?❤️

  23. REPLY
    Lynne Russert says

    It s comforting to know that her continued trust in you allows her to let you treat her feet. She’s come a long way & I pray she will eventually overcome these issues. She is a true rock star as are all of you.

  24. REPLY
    Carol Anderson says

    Having constant back pain I can understand her pain. She is doing exactly what I do, just work through it. All in all I am still able to enjoy life. That too is what Lady is doing. She and I are sisters from another mother as they say.

  25. REPLY

    Awww, Sweet Ms Ladybug! So close, yet so far away. It’s incredible how trusting she is of y’all who care for her. Poor Golden Girl, she’s so stoic to keep moving, exploring & being so brave through her pain. Hearing how she makes it through endears her to me. ALL the GG’s (Golden Girls) are special to me as I’m sure no one here or there would argue that. But there’s something about Ms Lady bug that resonates with me. I REALLY Love coming here & reading all of their stories & daily doings. It’s my private escapism from all the world’s horrors. So THANK Y’all for this site. I’m very emotional today for some reason so I needed some tissues to read these latest posts.

  26. REPLY
    Rachel says

    Rosie – I loved your post. Spoke right into my heart – I feel the same!

  27. REPLY
    iris says

    Thank you all for your work and your compassion in doing it!

  28. REPLY
    Kelejan says

    Carol Anderson, this is just a little joke. Who is the Dad. I do have a brother from another Mother.

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