The three-week-old elephant, who is fighting for her life at the Melbourne Zoo, stood up for the first time on Tuesday as she battles a rare tendon condition that prevents her from walking.
A baby Asian elephant, diagnosed with congenital carpal flexure, a condition that causes the animal’s feet to curl backwards leaving it unable to stand up, was able to stand for short periods of time on Tuesday after medical staff removed casts from its front legs.
The prognosis for the baby elephant has remained unclear since its birth. The rare condition has never before been documented in captive elephants.
The elephant has received round-the-clock care since she was born. If left untreated, the animal would have died.
As she is unable to stand to feed from her mother, zookeepers have been bottle feeding her with a milk formula instead as well as giving her intensive physiotherapy.
Melbourne Zoo’s senior veterinarian Michael Lynch said the elephant’s condition had improved and the casts were no longer needed.
“Once we took that cast off, she actually stood up with us balancing her for a short period of time, She’s showing some strength but she can’t consistently stand up unaided.”
Lynch said the elephant was still in a critical condition despite these small improvements. “It’s still a struggle to get her feeding consistently, she’s nutritionally not receiving adequate oral nutrition.”
“It’s very difficult to raise these Asian elephant calves and keep them in a good nutritional balance. She’s actually gotten a little weaker over this time and that’s our problem now.
“Whilst we’ ve fixed the legs, we have a calf that’s quite weak and we’ve got to get her moving around again so she can eventually get back with her mother,” she said.
Lynch said the Melbourne Zoo staff had fallen in love with the elephant.
“She’s a real fighter, she really wants to get up and we’re encouraging her in those efforts,” he said.
“She’s frustrated if the feeding is not going well, she gives little roars and things like that, so of course everyone’s fallen in love with her and just admiring her spirit and will to keep on going,” he said.
The elephant has been spending time with her mother twice a day through a fence.