Smithsonian National Zoo Takes Big Steps In Elephant Care

Shanthi is a female Asian elephant residing at Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C.  Weighing an impressive 9,000 pounds, Shanthi is roughly 40 years of age.

Her roots begin in Sri Lanka, where she lived at the Pennewela Elephant Orphanage.  Her name, (pronounced Shanti) is borrowed from the Sinhalese language and means both “peace” and “blessing”, depending on regional dialect.

In 1976, at approximately one year of age, Shanthi was given to the National Zoo as a gift from the children of Sri Lanka.  She resides with five other Asian elephants.

More than a decade ago, Shanthi developed arthritis in her front left leg.  Athritis and degenerative joint disease/osteoarthritis are not unheard of in elephants. There is currently no cure, but medicinal treatment options are available to make the animal more comfortable as well as theraputic exercise. Think of it as a physical therapy appointment for a really big patient!  Spending time in the water is a great method of theraputic exercise for elephants with arthritis. The cool water aids in lessening any inflammation as well as relieving the amount of weight loaded on the joint(s).

Since strolling up to a wild elephant hoping to obtain radiographic images of their joints would be incredibly dangerous and likely result in serious injury, elephants in human care are giving scientists and conservationists a very special opportunity for study. Obtaining this data will help further our human knowledge of the complex musculoskeletal system of the Asian elephant.

Shanthi’s caretakers have been focused on her care and comfort as her arthritis is closely monitored. Watch the video below to see how Shanti’s team looks after her using advanced methods of zoological animal care and medical technology.

Smithsonian National Zoological Park/YouTube

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