Aussie dog was first requested in 2005 to make a boot for Bon Su, an elephant at Melbourne Zoo to assist with treatment of an ulcer. A short time afterwards over the Christmas / New Year period 2005/2006, Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia were struck by the Tsunami and elephants suffered injuries to their feet during the clean up after the devastation .
We received an urgent request from Australia zoo for two boots to be sent to them urgently for onward transport to Banda Arche and so it began.
Since those early days, we have had many requests for our boots from all corners of the world, and to date would have supplied in excess of 250 worldwide. This had become the service we offer for the betterment of elephants in distress, to us it’s not an ideal occupation as each time we get an order it means there is an elephant in trouble and suffering, and the amount of work that goes into a boot, we make very little profit the simple reason in many cases we cannot charge more than a token cost because the owners of the elephant could not afford to pay and therefore the animal misses out. Luckily in some cases the old adage of, “everybody loves an elephant” comes into play, and private individuals donate the money to enable the purchase of the boot or boots as the case may be.
EQUIPMENT AND MATERIALS
When Aussie Dog was first approached to take on this task we had most of the equipment required for such a task. Cutters and industrial heavy duty sewing machines (Samson and Delia). We have since also purchased “Thumper,” to sew the soles more efficiently ($20,000). As we had the equipment it was just a question of sourcing suitable material that would be equal to the task. Two things we had to consider were:
- Keeping the animals foot at an ambient temperature within the boot so it did not promote conditions for the infection to grow, so it must breath.
- Durability but also as lightweight as possible so as not to upset the bio-dynamics of the foot which is flexible within itself.
With these requirements we sourced canvas, trampoline mesh, heavy duty fire hose and belting material.
HOW DO YOU ASSES AND MEASURE AN ELEPHANT 1000’S OF KILOMETRES AWAY?
We ask for specific photographs of the foot to be emailed to us. We then add lines and send back, asking for measurements of height and diameter at various points up the leg. Also an outline of the animals foot sent to us by FedEx, or similar express services. From these measurements, we cut a pattern to fit the animal.
The other questions we ask are:
- nature of the wound or infection
This is so we can build the boot that is most advantageous to the animal, this information is most important, without this information we will not proceed as every boot is made to fit one elephant for a purpose. Once we made a boot and were not given the information as to the foot problem those boots were returned to us as unsuitable. It eventually turned out that the problem was rats chewing the animal’s feet at night so the standard boot was not suitable, we eventually supplied boots that were suitable for this purpose, this was a couple of years ago, although we have made many in the intervening period, we still have the boots and are unable to sell them, because every elephant boot to date has been a unique fit.
We also ask for video of the animal walking, this shows us whether the animal bangs its legs, together or there is some oddity in its gait due to injury that we need to compensate for, believe you me, some of them are horrific!
TYPE OF INJURIES OR INFECTIONS
- Ulcers due to concrete surfaces, mialnly older elephants in concrete enclosures in Europe and the USA
- Misuse of Drugs (amphetamines) to make the elephants work win the illegal logging trade in Asia. This destroys the blood supply to the legs and feet.
- Bacterial Infections
- Foot damage due to stones or small hard objects entering the sole of the foot.
- Vermin, Rats chewing on the feet of sleeping elephants.
CASE STUDY JABU, BOTSWANA
- Weight: 8 Tonnes
- Sex: Male
- Problem: Ulcer
- Attitude: I do as I like, unless I am in trouble!
Although we have had considerable success in this unique field please do not consider us as expert’s as in our book it seems here in Australia, an expert is somebody from overseas!
The other interpretation is, “X is an unknown quantity, and spurt is a drip under pressure.”
We are dedicated to animals and good at what we do. It’s a good thing the rest of the world recognises this.
Credit – Article was written by Joe Parsons, Director of Aussie Dog Products, for the Australasian Society of Zoo Keeping (ASZK) subscription magazine ‘Thylacinus’. https://aszk.org.au