Brookmans Park vets study elephant feet to cure lameness

PUBLISHED: 06:56 08 February 2017 | UPDATED: 11:54 08 February 2017

The Royal Veterinary College made this CT scan in its elephant foot study.

The Royal Veterinary College made this CT scan in its elephant foot study.


Veterinary scientists working in Brookmans Park have been scrutinising the feet of dead elephants to understand why the huge mammals often suffer from lameness in captivity.


Zoos and safari parks across Europe provided 50 elephant feet to the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), where they were researched using CT scans.

The research has now been published in a paper entitled Skeletal Pathology and Variable Anatomy in Elephant Feet Assessed using Computed Tomography.

The Brookmans Park scientists discovered that nearly all the animals were suffering from foot disease, and probed how this was related to the elephants’ age and weight.

Professor Renate Weller, who specialises in comparative Imaging and biomechanics, said: “This study is a great example where biomechanics is linked to clinical problems, thus helping us vets to not only diagnose and treat disease better, but to also put preventative measures in place.

“It will also form the basis for further study on the effect of husbandry on musculoskeletal health in captive elephants.”

Professor John Hutchinson, a specialist in evolutionary biomechanics, said: “This study has resulted in invaluable insight into the underlying causes behind musculoskeletal diseases that affect elephants’ feet.

“Along with previous research at the RVC, this study will help vets recognise foot disease and continue to improve elephant welfare and management.”

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