Elephant Tetanus

Clostridium tetani

Tetanus, also called lockjaw, is a medical condition characterized by a prolonged contraction of skeletal muscle fibers. The primary symptoms are caused by tetanospasmin, a neurotoxin produced by the Gram-positive, obligate anaerobic bacterium Clostridium tetani.

Clostridium tetani is more common in the tropics, and can be found in soil, and feces of horse, humans and cattle.

Infection generally occurs through wound contamination, and often involves a cut or deep anaearobic puncture wound. As the infection progresses, body temperature increase, muscle spasms in the jaw develop, hence the name lockjaw. This is followed by difficulty in swallowing and general muscle stiffness and spasms in other parts of the body. Often the elephant has to be supported by a sling, in order to stand up.

Treatment include wound cleaning and draining, and penicillin or antibiotics.

Infection can be prevented by proper immunization (vaccination) and by post-exposure prophylaxis.

4 Deceased elephants due to Tetanus.

OriginAgeBirthDeath dateDeath reasonParentsArrival
Death location
+ -Sri Thong-EM
tetanus infection
x 2012-02-29
Thai National Elephant Institute (Thai Elephant Conservation Center, TECC)
+ -Bobby-EM
tetanus from a wound in the foot
x 1991-02-00
Natal Zoo Lion Park
+ -Tess (Tessie)-EM
Tetanus and Lung problems
x 1939-00-00
Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus
+ -Emperor-EM
x 1895-00-00
Ringling Brothers Circus


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