Skin care


Definition of Skin care

From the elephant glossary Section: management




An elephant with dried out skin on the tail at the Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai in Thailand.
An elephant with dried out skin on the tail at the Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai in Thailand.
Manual cleaning of an elephant tail before applying vegetable oil
Manual cleaning of an elephant tail before applying vegetable oil An elephant with dried out skin on the tail at the Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai in Thailand.
Washing the elephant Mala on Circus Krone in Munich with power washing. Photo: Jan Lindblad Jr., 20000
Washing the elephant Mala on Circus Krone in Munich with power washing. Photo: Jan Lindblad Jr., 20000 An elephant with dried out skin on the tail at the Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai in Thailand.
Elephant owner Jean Clais power washing his elephant at <a href="location2.php?location_id=2635">Airavata Elephant Foundation, Ratanakiri, Cambodia</a>, 2020
Elephant owner Jean Clais power washing his elephant at Airavata Elephant Foundation, Ratanakiri, Cambodia, 2020 An elephant with dried out skin on the tail at the Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai in Thailand.



Relevant Literature about Skin care
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Elephants are highly dependant on water, not only for drinking but also for their skin and general hygiene. During their evolution, they were probably fully amphibious, and the present Asian elephants are reported to have swim over three km in the ocean.

Wild elephants still today enjoy a daily bath if its possible, and they should be showered daily in captivity. Apart from the hygienic point of view, elephants need a daily shower for their skincare, and its not only physically important, its also important for their mental well being, especially for bulls in captivity, who are often kept single, with less social interaction, and less stimulation. During Musth, the possibility take a bath, will reduce their frustration and make them less aggressive. Some countries or regions even have regulations regarding captive elephants access to water.

From AZA Standards for Elephant Management and Care Water suitable for drinking or bathing must be available daily or at greater frequency as
needed to meet the elephant’s cooling needs in the ambient environment.


Dry skin


In northern hemisphere, especially during winter time, elephants may get dry skin. Dry skin also often occur on some special places, like the tail, behind the Ears, on the temporal area, and on the elephants side, about where the hip bone is close to the skin.

When elephants get dry, a good treatment is to apply some vegetable oil like Colza oil on the skin after shower with soap.

A dried out tail is a result of poor hygiene and care. During an intensive period, the tail can be washed daily with soap, efter which vegetable oil is applied.

Another sometimes neglected area is the skin just above the nails, where sweat glands are located. If the skin in this area gets dried out and dirty, theres a risk the glands will be disturbed, and even closed, This can later result in severe abcess problems, and therefore this area needs a special attention during the daily washing.

Power washing helps a lot to improve the skin hygiene, and treat dry skin problems.

General shower recommendations


Take your time, and let the elephants also enjoy the shower, not only being cleaned as fast as possible.

Places that should be cleaned, but for some reasons sometimes may be neglected, is behind the Ears, inside of the hindlegs, the pockets where the Tusks and Tushes becomes visible, the wrinkles in front of, or under the eye, the temporal gland, the nails and the area above the nails, the stomach and under the base of the tail. Too often the back is not regulairly cleaned and the supra skin removed, why the animals have layers of dead skin over their back.

Animal welfare people may sometimes argue that the elephants should do their skin care themselves. If they have a nice pool, they might actually soak there for hours, but this is rare, in most cases they can only relax if there is a keeper nearby, seeing to they are not attacked by other elephants if they lay down. if there is no pool, but only shower its even more an illusion that they take care of their skin themselves. The fact in captivity is, that even if they get the possible technical arrangements, they will mostly just wet their head for some seconds or minutes, if there is some "natural" waterfall or likewise. So, taking full responsibility for those animals in captivity, includes a good skin care.

In colder climate: before letting the elephants out in the enclcosure after shower one must to make sure they are completely dry. A good routine to check this is to put and hand between the foreleg and the stomach, this is the last place likely to become dry. Letting elephants out in bad wether when they are not completely dry will cause joint problem and disturbance of blood flow in the ear veines.

Reumatic problem might appear many years afterwards, when its to late do anything, why it simply must be prevented earlier.

Shower with high pressure power washer


High pressure shower can be used with elephants, but only after a soft training period when they get used to the noise and the vibrations. Due to the frequency of Infrasound when they communicate on distance'>Rumbling, they probably hear something different than we do. If they are introduced to the machine in a calm, sensible way however, they will accept being showered this way, and some individuals actually show signs of enjoying the feeling of the "zone-therapy", especially if you use warm water. When cleaning the elephants, it is vital to keep enough distance between the pipe outlet and the skin. Normally there is safe to keep a distance about the lenght of one hand away from the elephant.

This type of shower can improve the skin and nail condition very positive, and if its introduced in a calm way, and not forced upon the elephants with stress, they will also get used to this type of washing, and not only benefit from it, some will also really like it.

It is essential to learn how to operate the pressure shower before you try it on the elephants. Experiment with different distance to objects and learn how the sound changes. This will help you later to keep a safe distance, hearing when you are to close to the elephants.

Places to avoid with high pressure


Avoid the area around the eyes, the openings to the ear, and the temporal gland. And remember its an elephant and not a lorry!

If you are using a borrowed machine, remember that it might have been used with strong cleaning chemicals, so let large amounts of water through it before you use it on the elephants!!



Reference list Koehl, Dan, (2024). Skin care. Elephant Encyclopedia, available online retrieved 20 September 2021 at https://www.elephant.se/index.php?id=53. (archived at the Wayback machine)


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Categories glossary | management


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