Orphaned Elephants - Nutrition and Environmental Stress, by Amber Brovelli:
We are researching better formula choices. Local vets do their best with limited resources, all the more why the Elephant Transit Home (ETH) in Sri Lanka, as well as other orphanages need more foster parents & research collaborators so that they can provide higher quality formula.
It is our intent to increase the communication/cross-pollination of ideas for milk formulas and other concepts for improving elephant health at orphanages, between Sri Lanka & Asia, & Asia & Africa. We have been around the country (Sri Lanka) twice in the past month & found that the formulas used, range between homemade rice milk & Nestle Lactogen Comfopro 2 human formula both fortified with other mineral & vitamin supplements. A collaborating international elephant vet has also informed us that elephants produce different milk dependent on their food sources, so African milk can be very different from the needs of an Asian Elephant.
In Sri Lanka, the elephants graze on a variety of trees, bark, roots, grasses, etc… over 100 plant species. Thus, different regions have varying nutrient contents to take in consideration when formulating milk. A mother elephant’s milk would contain all of the medicinal plants she is feeding on to grow a healthy and resilient elephant, which also supports ecosystem diversity. We know babies even go so far to eat the mother's dung, to self-inoculate with probiotics for healthy digestion.
As Naturalist Conservationist with SavingGanesh - The Sacred Wild Elephant of Asia not only I am concerned about the environmental toxins elephants are already exposed to from the farmers using synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, glyphosates that are directly in the crops, (as we know there are many elephants who crop raid due to habitat loss). These synthetic crop additives produce toxic runoff into the waterways, as well as respiratory issues from the off-gassing from fields, & villages burning plastic trash & the pollution from petroleum-based plastics leach phthalates, PET, BPA’s etc… into the greater environment.
My concern with elephant nutrition is not only short-term, even though I understand the pressing urgency these babies are facing to survive, it is also with the long-term nutritional sustainability, effectiveness, efficiency as well as the repercussions. If foods such as rice, sugar cane, soy, bananas, pumpkins, etc… are continually used to feed elephants in captivity that are preparing for their return back to the wild, then we are surely setting up for more human-elephant conflict to arise, producing a generation of trained crop raiders.
Not only do these quick releasing, high sugar- energy foods weaken their immunity causing proinflammatory response, which directly changes their gut flora, making them even more vulnerable, and susceptible to TB, Liver Fluke, EEHV, Diarrhea, Yeast Overgrowth - Candida, Constipation, Malabsorption - Malnutrition, Dehydration, and ultimately requiring human dependency and intervention for their fragile survival.
Unfortunately what we have witnessed oftentimes is the most economical convenient formulas, such as Nestle baby formulas containing high estrogen inducing foods such as, GMO soybeans, high-fructose corn syrup, rice sugar, hydrogenated fats, glutens, lectins etc... totally devoid of any goodness at all, furthering the elephant babies struggle & chances at survival, making them vulnerable to disease, toxicity overload & parasites.
The xenoestrogens are an immediate concern as endocrine disruptors and carcinogens. GMO foods such as phytoestrogen Soy would also contain toxic levels of herbicides and glyphosate causing extreme estrogenic activity disturbing intestinal gut flora producing an overload of estrogen in the body.
We have reached out to a larger network of vets in hopes to bring some formula research, donations, support and educational awareness to the all the vets that are caring for the calves. Daphne Sheldrike uses Coconut Oil as the main fat, which amazingly grows prevalent in Sri Lanka, yet it seems that this Fat has yet to be used herein formulating an elephant milk for orphans.
They deserve happy healthy bellies just as much as our babes do, as well as hormone harmony! Their struggle is already big enough without adequate nutritional support.
We will continue our research.
We are looking for long-term solutions that include locally sourced, sustainable supplies that will lead to the healthiest outcome for our orphaned elephants.