Escondido, California - Wildlife care specialists are working with the African elephant herd at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park to find out more about a disease that was recently identified as a threat to the species. Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (also known by the acronym EEHV) is carried by both Asian and African elephant species, but until last year had been associated most frequently with deaths of young Asian elephants.
“EEHV is a virus that has evolved along with elephant species, over millions of years, and occurs in individuals in native and zoo settings,” said Lauren Howard, DVM, director of veterinary services at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
The threat of the virus to young Asian elephants has been studied for many years by zoos working toward understanding EEHV and its impact on individual elephants, and on entire populations. Last year, two young African elephants at another institution died of the disease—and now, Safari Park wildlife care specialists, veterinarians and researchers have begun a project to learn more about the virus, so that it can be better understood in African elephants.
“Because of the strong relationship the elephant care specialists at the Safari Park have with the elephant herd, they are able to work with them to take regular blood samples and trunk washes,” said Kristi Burtis, elephant care manager, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “We hope the information we gather will allow us to develop ways to manage the disease in populations of elephants in Africa and Asia.”
As an international nonprofit organization, San Diego Zoo Global works to fight extinction through conservation efforts for plants and animals worldwide. With a history of leadership in species recovery and animal care, San Diego Zoo Global works with partners in science-based field programs on six continents, and maintains sanctuaries and public education facilities in many places. Inspiring a passion for nature is critical to saving species, and San Diego Zoo Global’s outreach efforts share the wonder of wildlife with millions of people every year. Current major conservation initiatives include fighting wildlife trafficking and the impacts of climate change on wildlife species; broad-spectrum species and habitat protection efforts in Kenya, in Peru, and on islands worldwide; preventing extinction in our own backyard; and expanding efforts to bank critical genetic resources and apply them to the conservation of critically endangered species. To learn more, visit SanDiegoZooGlobal.org