A 46-year-old elephant is undergoing treatment after testing positive for tuberculosis. Veterinarians are positive the animal will make a full recovery.
Routine Animal Health Inspection
In a routine inspection, St. Louis Zoo officials detected that one of its most popular resident animals, Ellie the Elephant, has tuberculosis. The mother of three is under antibiotic medication and does not present any unhealthy risk to guests of the zoo.
"Elephants with tuberculosis can be treated," said Luis Padilla, who serves as the zoo's director for animal health. "Ellie has a professional and caring team devoted to her health and well-being, and together we are developing an individualized treatment plan for her."
If not for the routine screening regularly done by the zoo, officials would not know of the elephant's condition, as the animal did not show any significant symptoms to indicate it has tuberculosis. The officials are also monitoring the animal's family members.
Asian elephants such as Ellie who live in a zoo have a shorter life span of only 19 years. This is shorter by about half of the elephants living in the wild that can live up to 42 years.
Endangered Asian Elephants
Elephants are one of the few animals with incredible memories. Ellie is one of the 45,000 remaining Asian elephants in the world. These elephants are slightly smaller than their African counterparts, which are often victims of animal poaching. Most of them do not have large tusks, only tushes that are often projecting just an inch from their lip line. Still, a good number of them are killed for their meat and skin. Some even remove the animals from their natural habitat for live elephant trade for tourism use, particularly in Thailand where about 3,000 to 4,000 elephants serve as tourist attractions.
Thailand is popular for allowing tourists to ride or take pictures with the elephants. Illegal traders pluck the animals from the wild where they can freely forage, swim, and explore together with the other elephants only to lock them up and force to do things that are unnatural or foreign them.
Many organizations are actively calling a stop to this practice, urging tourists to stop supporting activities such as elephant rides, as it is not only unhealthy for the elephants but dangerous to humans also.
Last year, a Scottish man died while his daughter was injured when an elephant they were on snapped. As a punishment for the animal's action, the handler hit the elephant with a sharp hook several times.
World Wildlife Fund currently works with authorities and stakeholders in properly implementing the laws on illegal elephant trade.