The Zurich Zoo announced today the death of five-year-old elephant cow Ruwani to Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpes Virus-Hemorrhagic Disease (EEHV). Ruwani is the third elephant to succumb to the herpes virus in a short time at the Kaeng Krachan Elephant Park.
“Losing a third elephant to this dreaded virus in such a short time is a tragic loss for Zurich Zoo,” says our zoo director Severin Dressen.
“For us as a zoo, it is particularly frustrating that we are powerless against the virus despite the best veterinary care from the University Animal Hospital Zurich.”
Ruwani showed no signs of illness until yesterday. In the days before, her viral load had fluctuated between higher and lower values.
In order to prevent an outbreak of the disease, the zoo at Ruwani started an accompanying treatment with antiviral drugs early on.
The zoo assumes that there is only a low risk of disease for the five remaining elephants. The remaining animals will continue to be medically monitored.
EEHV is a herpesvirus that is present in some form in all elephants, both wild and those in human care. It causes hemorrhagic disease that can be fatal in young elephants. There are several strains of the virus.
All elephants can carry the virus in a latent state through their entire lives without negative effects. It is not known why the virus sometimes comes out of latency.
Elephants are most susceptible to the virus from 18 months to 8 years of age. In some cases, the virus load reaches a fatal level within a matter of days.
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