Houston Zoo to Receive Federal Grant for Elephant Project

IMLS_photoThe Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) recently announced nearly $30,000,000 in grants to museums across the nation.  The Houston Zoo is receiving one of the 244 awards through the agency’s grant programs.  The Zoo is receiving $459,147 through the National Leadership Grants for Museums program for a project to support the Zoo’s research partnership with Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), Johns Hopkins University and the National Elephant Herpesvirus Laboratory at the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park which is making significant advances in the understanding of elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV).

Dr. Paul Ling, associate professor of virology and microbiology at BCM and Houston Zoo Associate Veterinarian Dr. Lauren Howard will travel to Washington, DC, for a workshop and ceremony on September 18, to be recognized for the award. The event will showcase the many ways museums support learning experiences, serve as community anchors, and are stewards of cultural and scientific heritage through the preservation of their collections.

“IMLS recognizes three valuable roles museums have in their communities: putting the learner at the center, serving as community anchors, and serving as stewards of cultural and scientific collections,” said IMLS Director Susan Hildreth.  “It is exciting to see the many ways our newly announced grants further these important museum roles. I congratulate the slate of 2013 museum grant recipients for planning projects that advance innovation in museum practice, lifelong learning, and community engagement.”

The Houston Zoo and its partners will conduct a research project to deepen the zoo community’s understanding of Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV). The research will determine whether any of the currently available anti-herpesvirus drugs have efficacy against EEHV, develop sensitive tests to evaluate specific immune responses to EEHV, and continue attempts to grow the virus in the laboratory. The results of this project will be treatments for elephants with EEHV and a better understanding of elephant immunity which will inform future vaccine development.

“IMLS grants are very competitive and highly regarded in the non-profit community,” said Houston Zoo Director Rick Barongi.  “Receiving such a large grant is testimony to the critical need for more research into the most serious threat to the survival of young Asian elephants in zoos and the wild.  This grant will not only help all elephants but heighten awareness of this devastating disease so more people join the fight to find a treatment, a vaccine and eventually a cure”

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