Maude was a 41-year-old Asian elephant living at the Miami Zoo. She had transferred there from Central Florida to keep another female elephant company three years ago. Last week, Maude started behaving unusually. She stopped eating and stopped having bowel movements. She started to eat sand and clay. Maude was already suffering from arthritis, so moving was painful and this certainly didn’t help her digestive system. Zoo staff were trying different treatments for Maude’s constipation, but last week, during one of those treatments, Maude collapsed and died within one minute. The necropsy found that her digestive tracts was packed with sand and clay.
Communications director of the Miami Zoo, Ron Magill, told the Miami Herald that elephants will eat sand and clay in the wild to get the nutrients they need. I imagine the sand and clay in Maude’s natural habitat would’ve been more nutritious than the sand and clay in a city zoo.
And what about Maude’s arthritis? Dr. Raj Sinha said in the Huffington Post, “Elephants in captivity, who are less active than those in the wild, tend to be overweight and have been known to develop arthritis painful enough to require medications and activity modification.” PETA confirm this, stating that “[z]oos’ lack of space creates health problems in elephants, such as muscular-skeletal ailments, arthritis, foot and joint diseases, reproductive problems, high infant mortality rates, and psychological distress (as is evidenced by repetitive swaying, head-bobbing, and pacing). Captivity-induced health problems are the leading cause of death of elephants in zoos—they are dying decades short of their expected life span.”
Seems that severe constipation can be added to that list of ailments and another reason to keep elephants out of captivity.
Photo credit: Zoo Miami
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