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Projects in Sumatra, Indonesia

Parasite Prevention for Pachyderms

Vanessa Gagne

While elephants in range countries face many challenges in their daily lives, one of the medical issues they encounter is internal parasites.  Elephants can become infected by ingesting food or water that contains parasite larva.  Parasites can contribute to an overall decline in health by causing such conditions as anemia, weight loss, and diarrhea. In extreme cases, parasites may overwhelm an organ or body system resulting in death.  The lack of appetite and poor food utilization caused by a large number of parasites can also inhibit the growth and maturation of young elephants. Occasionally, the adult parasites can be seen in the feces, but an infestation can also be detected by examining a fecal sample using a sedimentation and flotation method.

AES has been working with the Veterinary Society for Sumatran Wildlife Conservation (VESSWIC) to improve the health of the captive population of elephants in Sumatra, Indonesia. Some of the parasites found in elephants in Sumatra include: Strongylus spec., Strongyloides spec. Ascaridae, Fasciola spec. Paramphistomoidea and Anoplocephala spec.  To help control parasites in elephants, VESSWIC routinely deworms the captive elephant population every 3-4 months. Ivermectin is a broad spectrum anti parasitic that is often given in combination with other medications to treat internal parasites in elephants.

As a result of conversations with the VESSWIC veterinary staff and our international advisors, the board unanimously voted to make a donation to VESSWIC to purchase 250 mg of Ivermectin to help treat the elephants in Sumatra.  Having accurate weights is critical for determining the proper dosage of any medication.  The portable scales that AES purchased last year will be put to good use in determining the weight of the elephants, so they are given the correct amount of dewormer.

Sometimes it can be very tricky to get this intelligent animal to take medication.  If they can taste it, they will often just spit it out.  One way to make sure the medication is taken is to hide it in a favorite food.  In Sumatra, they use fruits such as bananas and pineapples to help mask the taste of the dewormer.