One of our expert veterinarians is currently in Singapore working with other wildlife professionals to save elephants from a deadly virus. Embark on this journey with her as she writes about the efforts being made to eradicate the virus and protect Asian elephants around the world.
Another elephant in the United Kingdom died of elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) earlier this week, this brings the total in the US and the UK up to 5 young elephant deaths in 2015,which is 5 elephants too many. We’ve learned so much about this deadly disease and yet we have so much left to learn. The first case of EEHV was identified in Washington DC at the National Zoo in 1995. A young female elephant, Kumari, died suddenly and had some findings on necropsy (that’s an autopsy for animals) that the zoo community had never seen before: bleeding and bruising in most of her organs, blue discoloration of the tongue, fluid build up around the heart. Veterinarians and pathologists eventually identified a herpes virus as the cause of Kumari’s death, finding the virus present within the cells that lined her blood vessels. These are called endothelial cells, so the virus was named elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus. I grew up in a suburb outside of Washington DC and went to the National Zoo regularly when I was younger. When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to meet Kumari and her mother in person, shortly after she was born. I was in college when my parents told me she had died, and I didn’t realize that, 10 years later, the same disease would send me to places across the US as well as Copenhagen, Rotterdam, and Bangkok.
I’m sitting at the gate here at IAH waiting to board my flight to Tokyo, then Singapore. It takes 24 hours of traveling to get to Singapore from Houston! I am looking forward to the start of the three day international EEHV workshop that is focusing on the Asian range countries where wild elephants still make their homes. I’ll be sharing more about the history of EEHV and my work in Singapore with other like minded veterinarians, researchers, conservationists and elephant specialists soon!!