HOHENWALD, Tenn. – It’s been a little more than a week since Nosey the elephant was taken away from her owners and arrived at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. The elephant’s owner has now been hit with an animal welfare citation. Exhibitor Hugo Liebel is cited for failing to provide Nosey with adequate veterinary care.
A veterinarian in Cullman found that the elephant had thickened dead skin over her forehead and back — putting her at risk for painful infections. Liebel has racked up nearly 200 citations for violating the federal animal welfare act, 16 of those were related to Nosey’s skin condition.
Since arriving in the Sanctuary’s care, the elephant is reportedly doing well.
But some viewers have reached out to us concerned about rumors of tuberculosis at the sanctuary.
In 2009 the CDC conducted a study on how eight people at the Elephant Sanctuary contracted tuberculous. The report revealed some of the elephants brought to the sanctuary had TB and gave it to some of the employees.
We reached out to the sanctuary to see how things have changed since the report was released, and to learn more about TB as it relates to elephants.
A spokesperson for The Elephant Sanctuary said they provide a safe haven and care to 10 elephants permanently residing in three separate areas on 2,700 acres of land.
They said, unfortunately, tuberculosis effects elephants in captivity throughout North America. In fact, in 1996, two Asian elephants apart from the “Hawthorn Herd” passed away as a result of TB.
The Hawthorn Corporation was a place where they trained and leased elephants to circuses. The sanctuary said a USDA report revealed TB exposure was widespread throughout that herd.
They said this wave of diagnoses marked the first time during the modern era that TB was detected in captive elephants in North America.
The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee received their first elephant from the Hawthorn Herd in 2003. In 2004 they received two more elephants from the herd, one had an advanced case of TB that was irreversible. She died two months later.
The sanctuary said eventually they received more Hawthorn elephants and housed them in a separate barn, because they had all been exposed to TB.
This was around the same time a CDC report came out about the transmission of TB bacteria from elephants to humans.
The CDC report said eight sanctuary workers were exposed to the disease. Because of this, the sanctuary claims to have made changes.
A spokesperson said they have changed management and entered into a best practices partnership with the Tennessee Department of Health and several other organizations to prevent personnel from getting TB.
They said today they have two barns and 220-acres of connecting fenced habitats is maintained as a quarantine facility, which includes: separate entrance to the Sanctuary property, separate staff, and quarantine protocols in place.
They said five elephants live in the Q facility. These elephants have received treatment, they do not travel, have no contact with the public, have no exposure to other elephants in the Sanctuary, and are monitored serologically and via trunk wash quarterly.
The recommended standard for TB surveillance in elephants by the USDA is an annual trunk wash series. The Elephant Sanctuary exceeds these recommendations by running additional voluntary serological tests.