Gregory J. Fleming, DVM; Ramiro Isaza, DVM, MS, DACZM
Kansas State University, Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Department of
Clinical Sciences, Manhattan, KS, USA
A 45-yr-old female Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) was examined for a 5-yr history of
decreased trunk use. When compared to other elephants in the herd, there was a significant decrease in trunk diameter and
some atrophy of the facial muscles associated with the trunk. Other physical exam findings, including a complete blood
count and serum chemistry panel, were unremarkable. Thermographic images of the trunk were obtained using the Inframetrics
hand-held, high resolution (65,000 pixels) thermography camera PM280 (Inframetrics PM 280 Thermography Camera, FLIR
Systems, N. Billerica, MA 01862-2598). These images were obtained to ascertain if there was a difference between this
elephant's thermal signature and that of other elephants with clinically normal trunks.
The trunk of the affected animal was cooler, both on the cranial and caudal surfaces, than
contemporary herd mates. Thermal changes in the trunk may be due to a combination of reasons, including muscle atrophy or
neurologic problems due to trauma, toxins, mineral deficiencies, or hereditary defects.1-10
Trunk paralysis has been reported in both Asian (Elephas maximus) and African (Loxodonta
africana) elephants.9,10 Anecdotal cases of chronic muscle wasting of the trunk and inability to extend the
trunk have been reported in captive Asian elephants.9
This syndrome appears to differ from African elephant trunk paralysis in that the paralysis happens
slowly over a number of years and does not appear progressive. Multiple theories for the syndrome have been proposed, such
as nerve damage attributed to trauma, parasitic migration, bacterial infection, and neoplasia involving motor
nerves.9 To date, no published reports have described histologic findings.
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truck paralysis in free-ranging elephants (Loxodonta africana) in Zimbabwe. J. Wildl. Dis. 30: 432-435.
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Medicine, 3rd ed. W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pp. 912.