Pedicure and Enrichment Support for Our Gentle Giants

Borneo Wildlife Preservation (BWP), a non-profit organization based in the United States and France, recently visited Sabah to collaborate with the Borneo Conservation Trust (BCT) and Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) in improving animal husbandry and foot care for elephants in captivity. This trip had been planned since two years ago but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The training provided by BWP was carried out from 4-12/04/2022 at three SWD rescue centres: Lok Kawi Wildlife Park (LKWP), Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre (SOURC), and Bornean Elephant Sanctuary (BES). It was an interesting event for the veterinarians, elephant keepers and elephant-related staff where they learned hands-on about proper foot care and the ongoing general elephant care. BWP also included preparation and the making of enrichment toys for the elephants in captive care at the three facilities.

The main purpose of this trip, which was fully funded by BWP and corporate donor Ms. Julia Riva, was to collaboratively conduct checks on all elephant feet health for elephants in captivity at LKWP, SOURC and BES with the assistance of elephant specialist, Robert Scholz (with over 25 years experience) from BWP in order to examine the elephants’ feet to cut out any cracks, trim their nails, and determine if there were any abscesses which needed to be treated. As the largest land animal in Borneo, the Bornean elephants can weigh up to 4-5 tons and will spend much of their time standing up, which is why foot care is especially important in captivity as these animals are not able to get the same exercise as they would in the wild where they would naturally grind down their nails.

Such on-site training will help to upgrade the skills of the elephant keepers in LKWP, SOURC and BES in husbandry management, daily elephant care, and the making of elephant enrichment tools and toys. This will indirectly improve the wellness of all the elephants in captivity in Sabah. The keepers will also be able to share such important knowledge and improve awareness of elephant husbandry among the general public.  This is just the first step to an ongoing professional educational program that BWP will be doing with the local vets and rangers of Sabah.  Their next visit this year will be an expert elephant veterinarian seminar.

The Sabah Wildlife Department is the government body for wildlife conservation and Borneo Conservation Trust is an NGO which aims to connect fragmented ecosystems to protect the biodiversity of flora and fauna in Sabah. As an NGO linked with SWD, BCT is the conservation partner for BWP on the island of Borneo, specifically in Sabah. BCT Executive Secretary Josephine Maluda stated that the training given by BWP was good exposure for the local elephant keepers, as well as expressing gratitude for donations from BWP including specialized tools for elephant care. BCT Chairman Datuk Dr. Laurentius Ambu said that he was glad the visit proceeded well after being delayed for two years due to the pandemic. 

Katerina (BWP founder) trimmed an elephant’s nail.
Participants working together to make an enrichment tool.

Borneo Wildlife Preservation was founded in 2014 and is a publicly supported United States corporation registered in California and classified as a charitable organization. BWP is also a non-profit association registered in France since 2020 and is focused on supporting locally partnered wildlife organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to ensure the survival of the Bornean Elephants and to secure the biodiversity of Sabah Borneo. BWP founder Katerina Pirelli-Zucchetta said that they found this to be a very successful trip and felt that the workshops created a real sense of comradery among those involved. BWP hopes to have inspired the staff to stay motivated to create better lives for the elephants which may never be released back into the rainforests.