Obstetrics in elephants


Obstetrics, one of the oldest fields in veterinary medicine, is well described and practiced in domestic and exotic animals. However, when providing care during elephant birth or dystocia, veterinary intervention options differ greatly from any domestic species, and are far more limited due to the dimensions and specific anatomy of the elephant reproductive tract. In addition, aging of captive elephant populations and advanced age of primiparous females make active birth management increasingly important. Intrauterine infection, uterine inertia and urogenital tract pathologies are emerging as major causes for dystocia, often leading to foetal and dam death. This paper reviews the current knowledge on elephant birth and the factors associated with dystocia. It then summarises recommendations for birth and dystocia management. As Caesarean section, the most common ultima ratio in domestic animal obstetrics, is lethal and therefore not an option in the elephant, non-invasive medical treatment, induction of the Fergusson reflex or the conscious decision to leave a retained foetus until it is expelled voluntarily, are key elements in elephant obstetrics. Surgical strategies such as episiotomy and foetotomy are sometimes inevitable in order to try to save the life of the dam, however, these interventions result in chronic post-surgical complications or even fatal outcome. Limited reliable data on serum calcium concentrations, and pharmacokinetics and effect of exogenous oestrogen, oxytocin, and prostaglandins during birth provide the scope of future research, necessary to advance scientific knowledge on obstetrics in elephants.


Animal Science

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Dystocia, Elephas maximus, Loxodonta africana, Obstetrics, Parturition

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