Posted: Thu 25th Oct 2018

Two of Chester Zoo’s young elephant calfs have died after contracting EEVH virus

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Oct 25th, 2018

Chester Zoo has confirmed today that two Asian Elephant calves have died after contracting EEVH virus.

Conservationists at Chester Zoo had been fighting to save the lives of two elephant calves from a vicious virus that is threatening endangered Asian elephants worldwide.

Three-year-old Nandita Hi Way and 18-month-old Aayu Hi Way – two much loved members of the zoo’s close-knit family herd of rare Asian elephants – both tested positive for the fast acting Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) on Monday 22 October.

EEHV is known to be present in almost all Asian elephants, both in the wild and in zoos across the globe, but only develops into an illness in some elephants and when it does it is almost always fatal.

Dedicated elephant keepers at the zoo detected signs of the virus in Aayu and Nandita early and, utilising state-of-the-art technology in the zoo’s on-site science lab, were able to confirm the presence of EEHV at the earliest possible moment and immediately begin treatment.

A team of expert scientists, conservationists, keepers and vets had been administering anti-viral drugs to help the young elephants to fight the illness.

The zoo’s director of animals Mike Jordan confirmed that sadly the two calfs did not survive, he said:

“Aayu and his half-sister Nandita were wonderful, confident and energetic calves, who loved nothing more than playing with the rest of the family herd – whether in the sand or the pool.

“They will be missed by their young siblings in the herd who will no doubt mourn for a short time.

“To lose them both is also devastating to all of us here who have cared for them day in, day out. We fought for them until the very last moments, but were unable to save them. It is just heart-breaking.”

Relatively little is known about EEHV. As well as those recorded in zoos, conservationists have discovered fatalities in at least seven countries across the Asian elephant range in the wild – India, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia (Sumatra) and Myanmar.

Currently there is no vaccination against it but researchers are working to create a treatment that trains an elephant’s immune system in what to look for.

Chester Zoo scientists – backed by more than £220,000 of public donations, a major partnership with The University of Surrey, and an international collaboration of conservationists, have made real progress in the fight to find a cure – but sadly the battle is ongoing.

 

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