Another elephant died of suspected Herpes virus infection in Odisha’s Nandankanan Zoological Park (NZP), a leading zoo of the country on September 19, taking the elephant death toll in the zoo to three in less than a month. Details
- The postmortem report revealed that the death was due to acute hemorrhagic disease caused by Endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV), a fatal infection found in captive as well as wild elephants for which there is no vaccine available.
- The first elephant had died on August 27.
- When infected, symptoms such as reduced appetite, nasal discharge and swollen glands on both sides of the face surface.
- The platelet counts of the elephants also drop considerably.
- The zoo authorities are following the advice of veterinarians of Centre for Wildlife Health at the Orissa University of Agriculture Technology and other experts in the State to deal with the Herpes attacks.
- In an attempt to curb the spread of herpes virus, authorities of Nandankanan Zoological Park wrote to Central Zoo Authority (CZA), requesting it to issue a protocol on the disease.
Elephant endotheliotropic herpesviruses (EEHV)
Nandankanan Zoological Park ● Nandankanan, literally meaning The Garden of Pleasure, is located 20 kms from Bhubaneswar, Odisha. ● It was established in 1960 and is built right inside the Chandaka forest. ● It houses the very first captive gharial breeding center in the country. ● It is among the six participating zoos for the conservation breeding of White-backed vulture. ● It is also the first zoo in the world to breed White/Melanistic tiger. ● The zoo was the first in India to successfully breed pangolin.
- EEHV or Elephantid betaherpesvirus 1 (ElHV-1) is a type of herpes virus, which can cause a highly fatal hemorrhagic disease when transmitted to young Asian elephants.
- Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) leads to generalized hemorrhages resulting in death within 24 to 48 hours of clinical onset with a mortality rate of 85 percent.
- It has killed about 20-30% of the captive-born elephant calves born in North American zoos in the last 50 years.
- There have been about 100 cases worldwide, the vast majority in Asian elephant calves.
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- The EEHV virus is present in all herd of elephants hence keeping EEHV out of the herd is not possible.
- Herpesvirus outbreaks are generally related to a decrease in immunity so avoiding stress in elephants is an important preventative measure.
- This would include careful planning of elephant moves and introductions, especially during breeding and weaning while other calves are present.
- It is also important to separate African elephants and Asian elephants, particularly young Asian elephants, to avoid exposure risks.
- Daily management of the herd by elephant staff is the most important preventative measure for EEHV disease.
- They should do daily oral checks of the tongue and mouth and observe any minor changes in color.
- They should report any minor changes in behavior and appetite.