Young elephant dies after contracting herpes

A two-year-old elephant has died after contracting herpes, despite the best efforts of keepers.

The virus had quickly spread and Umesh, a young male, died on the evening of June 28.

His condition had deteriorated at speed, despite ongoing treatment, much to the sadness of staff at Zurich Zoo, Switzerland.

Keepers allowed for the young bull’s family to spend some time with the body, to say goodbye, as elephants are known to mourn their dead.

Umesh’s two sisters, Omysha, 8, and Chandra, 20, and his mother Indi, 36, were allowed to say goodbye.

The herpes virus, Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpes Virus (EEHV), is quite common among the large mammals, but it is especially dangerous to young elephants.

The zoo said in a statement: ‘The two-year-old elephant bull Umesh died yesterday evening despite intensive treatment lasting several days from a herpes virus typical of elephants.’


They added that Umesh had ‘contracted a herpes virus that is typical of elephants and is particularly dangerous for young animals.’

The zoo also said: ‘After starting antiviral therapy over the weekend, Umesh’s blood counts showed no improvement and continued to deteriorate. On Tuesday morning he showed the first symptoms of the dreaded disease, after which he died suddenly in the evening, despite the ongoing treatment.’

Umesh’s body is now being examined by medical experts. The investigation can help to better understand EEHV in the future and to further optimise treatment methods.

Research is underway into a vaccine that could protect young elephants from the virus in the future.’

Zurich zoo added: ‘There is always a risk, especially for young animals, that it will suddenly break out. This affects both elephants in zoos and in wild populations.

‘We thank the tireless efforts of the veterinarians, the curator and all animal keepers who have done everything they can to help Umesh in the last few days.’

The zoo explained that up to two-thirds of all deaths in young Asian elephants in European and American zoos can be traced back to EEHV.

The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) is listed as ‘endangered’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

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