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One Elephant of a Pedicure

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If you visit the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington DC, you may notice one of the zoo’s resident elephants, Shanthi, strolling around in stylish Teva boots. While the footwear makes the 9,000-pound elephant stand out among her peers, its purpose is to provide Shanthi a relief from the side effects of arthritis, a chronic condition that causes painful inflammation and stiffness of joints. Shanthi, who has been an active member of the zoo since the age of one, was unfortunately diagnosed with these issues in 2006. As a result of her arthritis, Shanthi has started to put more of her weight on her front feet. While this helps ease the pressure on her joints, it has led to painful blisters around her toenails. In fact, zoo officials have tried everything from daily pedicures to medicated foot baths, but the blisters have been difficult to treat. One challenge is that the medicated bandages often come off as the elephant moves around. Earlier this year, the zoo’s officials approached the makers of Teva footwear for a pair of shoes to help the distressed animal. Using Smithsonian’s 3-D Digitization Program to measure Shanthi’s foot size, the designers created a stylish custom-made pair and delivered them to the zoo in September. Shanthi’s shoe size with a 12E width are about as big as a birdbath! While it took some time to get used to, Shanthi now happily strolls around in her footwear, making it easier for zoo officials to keep the bandages on, and painful debris out. According to Smithsonian National Zoo, Shanthi’s keepers believe the treatment is working, letting the elephant be able to walk more and even playing in the outdoor swimming pool.  This was one elephant of a positive intervention.

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One Elephant of a Pedicure