Elephants in both the wild and in captive environments are known to have a variety of tusk problems. In the wild, these range from minor chips and cracks to major fractures with pulpal exposures to complete avulsion of the tusk. In captive environments, thanks to the necessity for an abundance of steel and concrete, one also finds an identical assortment of tusk problems and injuries. Relatively minor tusk chips and cracks generally do not require intervention. However, when the pulp tissue within the tusk is exposed or the animal’s immune system is not able to resolve the problem, some degree of surgical intervention may be required. In severely infected cases with apical osteomyelitis with or without soft tissue cellulitis, tusk extraction may be the only possible resolution indicated.
Beginning in the early 1980s, this author has been involved in the examination, immobilization, translocation, treatment, and surgical operation on a multitude of elephants (both African and Asian). Drawn from this deep well of practical clinical experience, the author presents a variety of general principles to help the concerned clinician effectively resolve clinical tusk problems. Attention to diagnosis, radiographic technique and classification of tusk damage will be discussed with examples provided. Repair by partial pulpotomy with and without custom made instrumentation will be described. A new surgical technique for the removal of an intact tusk will be shown.