Perth Zoo’s senior veterinarian Dr Simone Vitali with Tricia
Perth Zoo’s senior veterinarian Dr Simone Vitali with Tricia

Talk about being pampered.  Perth Zoo’s 56-year-old Asian elephant Tricia is receiving 25 minute back and shoulder massages twice daily using a specially designed massage pad usually used on horses. Perth Zoo Senior Vet Dr Simone Vitali said he hoped the massages would starve off the aches and pains of old age as the elephant stomps towards her twilight years. And it’s not just massage keeping Tricia in tip top shape.  Her health care program also includes regular teeth and gum cleaning and behavioural enrichment.

Perth Zoo elephant keeper Kirsty Carey with Asian elephant Tricia.
Perth Zoo elephant keeper Kirsty Carey with Asian elephant Tricia.

Tricia first arrived at Perth from Singapore in 1963 and is the longest serving Zoo resident. “We hope that regular use of the back pad, which looks like a saddle, will help maintain her flexibility and mobility for many years to come,” Dr Vitali said. “Deep tissue massage increases circulation and lymph drainage, relaxation of muscles and increased joint mobility. “The vibrating back pad can be placed on her hips and her shoulder area and there is also a vibrating wrap around unit for her legs. “The elephant keepers slowly introduced the back pad to Tricia giving her time to get used to it first without the vibration. Now they are using it twice a day for 25 minutes and use the leg unit for 10 minutes on each leg.” The equipment, called Equissage, is based on technology that was originally used in the treatment of humans for musculoskeletal conditions. It was donated to the zoo by horse health company Equissage. The back pad and leg unit have been used with performance horses for many years including the famous Black Caviar, according to Equissage spokesperson Lynne Devenish. “We are delighted to be able to support Perth Zoo by providing this unit as part of Tricia’s preventative health care regime,” Ms Devenish said. Perth Zoo has two other resident elephants who are both 23-years-old.

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