Those persons or institutions who have not previously performed an elephant necropsy should read the protocol in its entirety to ensure completion of a safe, efficient, and accurate necropsy procedure.

This necropsy protocol should be used in conjunction with the optional SSP research and tissue requests (included at the end of the downloadable document) to facilitate collection of a complete tissue, sample, and data set. Several pathologists, clinical veterinarians, and scientists are potentially available to assist institutions with elephant necropsies. Assistance may be in the form of telephone consultation or, if given sufficient notice and time to travel, on-site guidance (contact information is available at the end of the downloadable document). Two of the more important disease processes in elephants include endotheliotropic herpes virus (EEHV) infection and tuberculosis (caused by the human pathogen, Mycobacterium tuberculosis).

Post-mortem examination of an elephant can be a daunting task, but with proper personnel, planning, and experience, the procedure can be done safely and efficiently. If at all possible, institutions should make preparations or contingency plans for the movement, necropsy, and disposal of an elephant ahead of time to avoid the stress of planning at the time of death. The information gained from an elephant necropsy is hugely valuable to institutions, the AZA, and to elephants in captivity and in the wild.

Research And Necropsy Protocols

Elephant TAG/SSP Research and Necropsy Protocol, November 2023

This protocol is an effort of the Elephant Species Survival Plan (SSP) Propagation Group of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA). The purpose is to provide a format for the systematic collection of information and samples that will facilitate diagnostic investigation and add to our knowledge of elephants.