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Caring for pachyderm pads

We recently celebrated World Elephant Day at Zoo Atlanta along with zoological organizations, conservationists, researchers and elephant enthusiasts all over the world. Not only was it an amazing opportunity to raise awareness regarding the status of wild elephants, but it was an opportunity for guests to visit our elephant area and learn just what it takes to care for these giants. Our elephant care team works tirelessly in order to ensure that the African elephants are healthy both mentally and physically. Daily husbandry activities include baths, exercise, training, habitat maintenance, enrichment provision and foot care.

We are required to have a foot care program. Our elephants’ feet are checked and cleaned several times throughout the week. They are examined for any new nail cracks, injuries to the pad, and for any foreign objects that may have become embedded within the grooves of the pad. One to two times a month, each foot is trimmed by our elephant care team members. These keepers are trained to use special tools in order to carefully work with the pad of the foot. Each pad is made up of grooves that we want to ensure do not become overgrown. By regularly cleaning and trimming the elephants’ feet, we are able to keep them very healthy and avoid any issues that could be caused without regular foot care.

In addition to trimming the grooves of the pads of the elephants’ feet, our care team also files the elephants’ nails. We use a large rasp in order to keep the nails healthy as well. These activities are all made possible through our positive reinforcement training program, which allows the elephants to voluntarily participate in their own care.

It’s not unusual to see us engaged in foot care when you visit our elephant barn, and guests can quite often see us in action. Our team loves to explain to visitors exactly what we’re doing and the ways it benefits the elephants.
Nate Elgart
Elephant Program Manager and Lead Keeper, Elephants

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