Tusks are actually replacement teeth that grow at the rate of 17cm per year and are composed mostly of dentine. Not all elephants grow tusks. The Asian male grows long tusks but the Asian female only grows tusks that are about 3″ long. Also not all Asian females grow tusks. Both African males and females grow long tusks however. The tusks are cleaned regularly and are sometimes filed down in order to protect the other elephants.
Our elephants are watered on a regulated schedule and are watered at least 4 or 5 times a day. If the weather is hot or above a comfortable temperature, the elephants are watered more often. Misters are also utilized for cooling for our elephants in warmer weather.
Each elephant eats between 2 and 4 square bales of hay and 16 pounds of sweet feed each day. The elephant department by itself uses over 25 bales of hay and 165 pounds of feed per day. In addition, elephants love fruits and vegetables, and often are given these as treats.
One of the more interesting grooming operations we perform on the elephants is the pedicure. Each toe of the foot has a nail attached to the skin and not directly to the toe bones. We use a small rasp file to clean and file the nail. This process is provided for each resident every 4 to 6 weeks or as often as it is needed. Elephants walk on their toes, although they appear to be flat-footed. The ‘heel’ of the foot is really a pad of fatty and elastic connective tissues.
One of the main health concerns at the Endangered Ark Foundation is our elephants feet. Did you know elephants will walk very long distances in the wild in search of food, and the keratin (which is the protein that makes up their nails/hooves) will naturally wear down on their feet, as they walk around all day. At our facility, their nails grow rapidly. In the wild if an elephant's nails aren't maintenanced it can cause pain and problems walking. To solve that problem, EAF gives pedicures on a weekly basis and does a nail/hoove evaluation every single day.
Bath & Spa
Bath time with the elephants is a very important part of the day. Each one of our residents enjoys this luxury daily. A long handled broom is utilized to exfoliate the skin getting underneath the folds, around the eyes and tail. Ever seen an elephant look forward to its bath? They trumpet. They come to you, play with you.
The typical bath means that each elephant gets a full rinse with warm water, to wet the skin completely and wash off any mud, and then gets a thorough scrub with specially formulated elephant wash soap. Every part of the body is scrubbed with soap before being rinsed again. Almost immediately after each bath, the elephants seek mud or dirt with which to coat their skin. This is very natural elephant behavior. Dirt and mud help keep an elephant cool on hot summer days and, acting as an exfoliant, keeping dead skin from building up.
Many ask if the soap hurts their eyes. It does not. A lot like baby shampoo, the soap is actually a special formula made specifically for elephants shipped from Missouri. Bathing the elephants allows EAF staff to visually inspect every part of the body and clean the skin while also providing important interaction. This serves to strengthen the bond between the handlers and the elephants. During bath time, keepers can also pay particular attention to the elephants’ feet, which receive regular inspections and care to make sure they remain healthy.