Eleven juvenile Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) were evaluated radiographically to determine the relative times of growth plate closure and phalangeal ossification in the bones of the distal forelimb. Specifically, the first, second, and third phalanges of the third digit (D3) were evaluated, as well as the third phalanx of digits 1, 2, 4, and 5. All elephants were healthy at the time of examination. A retrospective evaluation of radiographs from six of the 11 juvenile elephants was also completed to augment the data set. This study reports the methods used to obtain high-quality radiographs of the distal juvenile elephant limb, ossification characteristics of the phalanges, relative times of growth plate closure within the proximal phalanges of D3, and a method for age estimation based on radiographic findings. This study will help clinicians in conducting elephant foot radiography, in evaluating foot radiographs in juvenile elephants, in recognizing normal versus pathologic change, and in estimating juvenile elephant age based on radiographic ossification characteristics and growth plate closure times. Consistent use of the proposed foot radiograph technique is recommended to facilitate foot disease recognition and as part of the annual examination of captive Asian elephants.
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Vol. 39 • No. 3