The Pachyderm Podiatry Workshop: Extending Animal Welfare Beyond the Zoo’s Gates
Elephant management and care has become an intensely sensitive subject for the zoo community. Opinions on welfare and what constitutes health have been extremely varied and diverse. Animal activists, welfare groups, and elephant managers have set up alternate and often conflicting standards of care. In 2007 and 2008 the Phoenix Zoo set up an elephant foot care workshop that openly and collaboratively advanced the discussion of elephants and their management into a public arena.
The workshops were set up for elephant keepers, curators, managers, and veterinarians from institutions with elephants. Participants for the combined workshops represented 31 North American and 3 Mexican zoos, plus one participant from India. Consulting veterinarians from the USDA, two animal welfare activist groups, and two faculty members from North American schools of veterinary medicine also attended. The 2007 course was only advertised through the AZA elephant manager’s list server. The 2008 session was openly advertised to groups interested in elephant management, including some animal advocacy groups. Letters of support and commendation were received from two internationally known animal activist groups.