For the Love of Elephants

THIS PAST SEPTEMBER, Sausalito’s Sarah Shaw, founder of Sindisa Sanctuary in Healdsburg, made the 24-hour journey from Sausalito to Nepal to visit with Asian elephants. Why? To expand her knowledge of the 6,000-pound creatures that will soon call Sonoma County home. With the land acquired and nonprofit status achieved, the goal is to raise the money and secure the necessary permits to convert the 125-acre Sindisa property to a wildlife sanctuary for retired performance elephants along with other rescue animals including alpacas, dogs and horses. During her 10-day experience of trekking through leech-infested waters in Asia, she learned something most of us will never master, the art of the elephant pedicure. “Foot infection is actually the number-one killer of elephants,” says Shaw. Treating it in captivity “is absolutely essential for their life because once the infection spreads to the bone there is no cure and it will eventually lead to their euthanasia.” Osteomyelitis, as it is called, is a relatively new disease that became prevalent with the practice of chaining captive elephants to posts so they’re forced to stand in their own feces and urine for hours at a time. During Shaw’s stay, she spent much of her time filing, trimming and checking the pachyderms’ feet for bacteria. She first became interested in elephants after reading Daphne Sheldrick’s autobiography Love, Life, and Elephants, which inspired her to travel to Africa to get involved in anti-poaching campaigns. “I wanted to make a difference but realized the best way I could do that was by helping to create local campaigns and efforts here,” Shaw says. Her sanctuary is scheduled to open in spring 2018, but if you are thinking of adding a pachyderm to your family, here are some facts you should probably know.

  • Elephants don’t like bees. In fact, they’re terrified of them.
  • They are the only mammals that can’t jump.
  • Elephants are incredibly intelligent and emotional creatures. They can cry, play and laugh.
  • The largest elephant on record was an adult male African elephant. He weighed about 24,000 pounds and was 13 feet tall at the shoulder.
  • Elephants can live to be over 70 years old.
  • Elephants have a highly developed brain that is the largest seen in land mammals.