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.
(In cab on way back from Singapore Night Safari):
Today I got to stand up in front of a crowd of 50 people from 10 different countries in Asia and explain how we have saved elephants from EEHV at the Houston Zoo. Veterinarians from Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, India, Borneo, Singapore, and Sri Lanka attended the first day of our three day workshop on the Asian EEHV Strategy meeting hosted by the Singapore Zoo. As I’ve mentioned earlier, elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) causes severe, fatal hemorrhagic disease in young Asian elephants. Today I presented background information on EEHV as well as details of the Houston Zoo’s intensive EEHV monitoring and treatment program. I presented along with Dr. Paul Ling of Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Willem Schaftenaar of the Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands, and Dr. Arun Zachariah of the department of Forest and Wildlife in Kerala, India. We also heard case reports and field updates from Dr. Christopher Stremme in Indonesia, and Dr. Chatchote Thitaram, from the Center of Excellence in Elephant Research and Education in Thailand. I learned that our Houston Zoo EEHV Protocol, which we update yearly, was used as an important resource at the First Meeting of the Thailand EEHV Task Force in October 2015. The treatment information in our protocol also contributed significantly to the survival of three young elephants in Thailand who became ill from EEHV in 2013-2015. Unfortunately, these survivors were in the minority, with 25 elephants in Thailand having died of EEHV since 2006, with more than half of the fatalities occurring since 2012.
In North America, most of the institutions that care for elephants have the same challenges and priorities, intensively managing smaller herds and focusing EEHV monitoring efforts on a handful of young elephants in their collections. Throughout these different countries in South East Asia, the situations and needs vary greatly from region to region. Some elephant camps or sanctuaries have full time veterinarians, and some have veterinarians visit regularly or only when an illness is noted. The logging elephants in Myanmar have strict government guidelines outlining their care. The Elephant Transit Camp in Sri Lanka houses up to forty elephant orphans under 6 years old, eventually rehabilitating most and releasing them back the wild. The challenge we will face the next two days will be to take what we have learned about EEHV in North America, and the testing and treatment protocols we have developed at the Houston Zoo, and see how we can apply this all to the various situations across Asia, where an elephant’s blood sample may travel for three days at room temperature before it can make it to a lab, and where electricity to keep refrigerators working is not always reliable. It’s a thrill being able to share information from our EEHV Collaboration in Houston with these incredible veterinarians who face so many challenges (habitat destruction, fragmenting of wild herds, lack laboratories) in the work of keeping their elephants safe and healthy. More to come!!