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Asian elephant calf loses battle against virus

ABQ BioPark grieves for Jazmine

ALBUQUERQUE - After being diagnosed with elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV), Jazmine, the ABQ BioPark’s eight-year-old Asian elephant, died from the effects of her infection on January 2. The BioPark provided round-the-clock treatment since the virus was first detected in Jazmine’s bloodwork on December 28. The same virus claimed the life of her brother Thorn on Christmas Day.

“The BioPark’s elephant experts and veterinary teams did everything in their power - and then some - to help Jazmine,” said Stephanie Stowell, ABQ BioPark Director, “and Jazmine matched their efforts every step along the way. True to her strong-willed nature, Jazmine fought valiantly against the disease.”

“As a community, we are all saddened by the loss of any elephants, especially young animals like Thorn and Jazmine. We know the professionals at ABQ BioPark and those from the EEHV Advisory Group that dedicated their time to administering the EEHV treatment regime gave it their all. And while it does not make the sting of their deaths any less, what we learned during their treatments will help advance our overall knowledge of EEHV treatment efforts. Our thoughts are with the staff as they deal with their loss,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Adding to the anguish of losing a beloved animal, Jazmine’s death marks a considerable loss to the future of Asian elephants. Jazmine was on a carefully planned path to become an elephant matriarch. Because of the BioPark’s innovative elephant care program, Jazmine grew up in an educated and multi-generational herd. Just like elephants in the wild, Jazmine was present when her brother Thorn was born. Human caretakers had to teach Jazmine’s mother Rozie how to be a mother, but Jazmine learned about birthing, nursing and caring for calves by watching her elephant mother. Jazmine could be seen “mothering” her favorite toy balls by gently tucking them under her belly and taking them with her as she traveled from yard to yard. Jazmine also gained valuable social skills during interactions with her grandmother Alice, unrelated “auntie” Irene, and mature bull Albert.

Had Jazmine survived, her skills and experiences would have enabled her to raise her own calves and lead elephants in her own multi-generational herd. The BioPark’s investment in Jazmine’s livelihood led the way for other accredited zoos to adapt their elephant care programs. Jazmine’s short life will have a long term impact on other elephants in human care as well as in the wild.

 All elephants can carry EEHV 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 EEHV from 18 months to 8 years of age. EEHV causes hemorrhagic disease that can be fatal for young elephants. It is the leading cause of death for Asian elephant calves and can strike elephants in the wild and in human care. 

 “The global elephant community, including the North American EEHV Advisory Group, is working to fight this disease and prevent more deaths by sharing research results, samples, and treatment outcomes, and providing support for range country colleagues,” said Erin Latimer, for the advisory group. “Each case of EEHV hemorrhagic disease (EEHV HD), while tragic, does provide us with more information on its causes, transmission, and treatment. The elephant community rallied around ABQ BioPark to provide support with husbandry, treatment, and testing. We are devastated by these latest two deaths, and we hope that the incredible cooperation amongst our colleagues will continue to provide answers on how best to prevent these deaths.”

 To provide round-the-clock care for Jazmine and maintain the highest standards of care for its healthy elephants, the BioPark received help from medical and elephant experts from across the country, including specialists from the St. Louis Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Houston Zoo, Oklahoma City Zoo,Fort Worth Zoo, Denver Zoo, African Lion Safari, the Elephant Managers Association and the National Elephant Herpesvirus Lab at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

 

MEDIA: b-roll and photos of Jazmine are available here.

Please note: ABQ BioPark Director Stephanie Stowell and Associate Director Bob Lee will be available at the ABQ BioPark Zoo between 2-3 p.m. on Monday, January 3, for questions and interviews.

 

EEHV Q & A

Is EEHV related to COVID-19?

No. These viruses are not related.

 

Have any elephants at the ABQ BioPark ever had EEHV before?

Yes, the BioPark sadly lost Daizy, a five year old female elephant in 2015 to EEHV.

 

What does the BioPark do to protect the elephant herd from EEHV?

Knowing that early detection is critical in giving an elephant their best defense against EEHV, the elephant care team at the ABQ BioPark took blood samples from elephant calves Thorn and Jazmine every week to monitor for the EEHV viruss. All elephants have been trained to be an active member of their own healthcare. They voluntarily let the staff do everything from basic eye and ear exams to complex procedures such as ultrasounds.

 

What happened when EEHV was detected in Thorn and Jazmine's bloodwork?

Knowing how quickly EEHV can impact an elephant, the BioPark’s animal care staff immediately started daily blood tests and antiviral medication and other treatments. Both were closely monitored for symptoms and changes in behavior.

 

Is EEHV always fatal?

No, but the animal care professionals at the ABQ BioPark did not take any chances and immediately began treatment as soon as we learned the virus was present.  Over the past few years, the detection, medical care and treatment of EEHV has improved exponentially. An elephant diagnosed with EEHV has a better chance of survival now than at any point since it was first identified.

 

How many elephants call the ABQ BioPark home?

The ABQ BioPark is at the forefront of elephant care and leading the way for other facilities with a multi-generational herd of Asian elephants and a unique rotating habitat system.

The herd at the ABQ BioPark consists of four elephants. Grandmother Alice; “Auntie Irene,” who is also the matriarch or leader of the group; and Rozie, who was both Thorn and Jazmine's mother. Albert is the current resident male.

 

Are the adult elephants at risk of also contracting EEHV?

As adult elephants have more developed immune systems, it is rare for an adult to develop a fatal infection.