Elephant herpes: Second younger elephant dies in New York Zoo


December 12, 2020, 11:47 p.m.

This photo, courtesy of Rosamond Gifford Zoo, shows the elephant calf Ajay with his big brother Batu aged 5 in Syracuse, NY. Photo / AP

A second young elephant has died at a central New York zoo, despite staff desperately trying to fight a deadly virus, zoo officials said Friday.

“This is obviously the worst result and it came after more than a week of intensive care by our team in the hope that each day Batu survived gave him a better chance of beating this terrible disease,” said Ted Fox, Zoo Director of Rosamond Gifford.

The 5-year-old male elephant died early Friday morning, days after the sudden death of his younger brother Ajay on Tuesday. Ajay died shortly before his second birthday. Both died of Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpes Virus, a strain of herpes that targets Asian elephants.

Batu had been in treatment since last week when a blood test came back positive for the virus, the zoo said in a statement. The elephant was given drugs and plasma infusions, but the viral load of EEHV in its blood increased exponentially from day to day.

Early Friday morning, eight days after the positive test, “he went to rest and never got up,” Fox said.

“While we knew this could happen, it’s hard to accept,” said Ryan McMahon, Onondaga County executive director. “Words cannot begin to express our sadness and grief. Nevertheless, we know that our elephant team and our zoo are as broken as we need our support more than ever.”

EEHV is the biggest killer of young Asian elephants and can kill anyone under the age of 8 within 24 hours. It is believed that it occurs naturally in elephants in latent form, which the zoo says can become active without warning.

Batu was the first calf to be born in Mali on May 12, 2015, as a bull elephant Doc. Ajay was born on January 15, 2019.

The zoo, one of eleven zoos approved by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to breed Asian elephants, has six adult elephants.

– AP

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