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An Update on Asian Elephant Ruth

An Update on Asian Elephant Ruth

An Update on Asian Elephant Ruth

At the Buttonwood Park Zoo high quality animal care is always our top priority. Dedicated animal care, veterinary, and curatorial staff work diligently to meet the husbandry, behavioral, welfare, and veterinary needs at all stages of an animal’s life – geriatric animal care is an area that BPZOO dedicates many resources to, with much success.

Recent guests to BPZOO may have noticed that Ruth, a 63-year-old female Asian elephant who has called the Zoo home since 1986, has not been as visible in the outdoor elephant habitat. Ruth has been spending much of her time convalescing inside her sand-floor barn, as she undergoes treatment for an age-related foot issue.

This past May, Ruth was diagnosed with proliferative pododermatitis – which causes too much tissue to grow around the nails, toes, or pads of her feet. The likely cause of this condition is her abnormal conformation – which refers to the skeletal structure of Ruth’s legs and feet, affecting how she stands and walks. As is common in geriatric elephants, 63-year-old Ruth’s age-related arthritis of her joints has progressively worsened, despite years of anti-inflammatory treatments and regular corrective trimming of her nails and pads. This arthritis has resulted in Ruth putting excessive, unevenly distributed pressure on parts of her feet while walking and standing, causing the pododermatitis.

Ruth is currently under veterinary care led by the Zoo’s in-house veterinary and animal care teams, along with leading veterinary and elephant foot experts from around the country. These experts have been assisting with her treatments, both in person and virtually. In addition to continued corrective foot pad and nail trimming, Ruth is also now being treated with medicated foot soaks, cryotherapy, antibiotics, several cutting-edge treatments, regular bandaging to assist in treatment and pain management medications as needed. As means to not exacerbate her foot issues, Ruth is mostly on stall rest, which allows her to relax comfortably in her barn and take the pressure off her afflicted foot and other arthritic joints. Just recently, she has begun to make short trips into the outdoor portion of the Asian elephant habitat.

Over the last few weeks, Zoo leadership has seen some stabilization of Ruth’s foot condition. Although optimistic for a recovery, the Zoo recognizes that treatment of such a significant foot issue, particularly on a geriatric animal, will be a long process. Staff are performing regular quality of life and welfare assessments of Ruth to ensure her well-being and that she is as comfortable as possible during her treatments.

Staff have been working diligently to treat Ruth’s foot condition, while also ensuring that she is comfortable and stimulated while on stall rest. We all know how Ruth is beloved by our community, so everyone can take comfort in knowing that she is receiving the best possible care for her age-related condition.

As one of the oldest elephants in the North American population, Ruth is no stranger to age-related issues, such as arthritis, and for years has required a modified diet. Animal care staff carefully chop her preferred type of hay and cook all her produce, so it is gentler on her teeth. Asian elephants have six sets of molars over the course of their lifetime, and Ruth is on her final set.

As Ruth continues to rest and receive treatment inside, she will be making short trips out into the Asian elephant habitat as her condition allows. Emily, BPZOO’s 57-year-old Asian elephant, will continue her typical routine of remaining outside during the Zoo’s operating hours. The Zoo will continue to provide updates on Ruth’s care through our website and social media pages.

BPZOO Rescues Two Fawns

BPZOO Rescues Two Fawns

Introducing Autumn and Olive

The Buttonwood Park Zoo has a long history of providing forever homes to orphaned and injured native wildlife, thanks to a strong partnership with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, or MassWildlife – and 2021 has proven to be no exception.

In early summer months, MassWildlife placed a young white-tailed deer fawn at BPZOO, who was believed to have been orphaned at less than ten days old in South Dartmouth. Weeks later, she was joined by a second fawn found alone in Western Massachusetts. They are the first white-tailed deer to inhabit BPZOO since 2017.

The two fawns, now affectionately referred to as Autumn and Olive, were only weeks old when they arrived at BPZOO and required hand-rearing by animal care staff. After approximately two months of bottle feeding, weight checks and completing the required quarantine, the fawns are ready to venture into a temporary habitat near their future home in the Zoo’s bison habitat.

In discussing the new arrivals, Zoo Director, Keith Lovett stated that “as part of our mission related to environmental education and the conservation of wildlife, the Zoo is proud to provide homes to many native species that are injured or orphaned in the wild. The Zoo, who has a long history in managing deer, will work to educate our guests on the impact humans can have on local wildlife and actions that can be taken to minimize our imprint on the environment.”

Eventually, Autumn and Olive will move into the bison habitat, a roughly ½ acre space that the fawns will share with Sarah the bison and approximately 16 species of waterfowl.  For now, the two fawns can be viewed in the side yard to the right of the entrance plaza.

About White-tailed Deer

White-tailed deer can survive in a variety of terrestrial habitats, from the big woods of northern Maine to the deep saw grass and hammock swamps of Florida. Ideal white-tailed deer habitat would contain dense thickets (in which to hide and move about) and edges (which furnish food). White-tailed deer fawns nurse for 8 to 10 weeks before they are weaned. Young males leave their mother after one year, but young females often stay with their mother for two years. Nervous and shy animals, white-tailed deer wave their tails characteristically from side to side when they are startled and fleeing. They are extremely agile and may bound at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. White-tailed deer are also good swimmers and often enter large streams and lakes to escape predators, insects or to visit islands.