- Two young female African elephants died a week apart at the Indianapolis Zoo.
- Both elephants had high levels of elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus, or EEHV. The virus has an 85 per cent mortality rate and has been linked to about half of the deaths of young elephants in zoos.
- The zoo’s staff, volunteers, and members of the community are “devastated.”
In heartbreaking news, two young female African elephants named Kalina and Nyah died a week apart at the Indianapolis Zoo, the zoo announced on Tuesday.
Both elephants had high levels of the deadly elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus, or EEHV, Rob Shumaker, the president of the Indianapolis Zoo, said during a press conference on Tuesday. The virus has an 85 per cent mortality rate and hits infected animals fast – Kalina and Nyah were dead within days of showing symptoms.
Six-year-old Nyah died on March 19. On Tuesday, the zoo said that eight-year-old Kalina also died after starting to show symptoms similar to Nyah over the weekend. The zoo is still officially waiting on Nyah’s histopathology results, they said in a Facebook post.
“Both elephants were born and raised here and words cannot express the emotional impact this has on staff, volunteers and members of the community who loved these two smart, playful and beautiful animals,” Melanie Laurendine, conservation public relations specialist at the Indianapolis Zoo, told INSIDER. “Our hearts are broken.”
Laurendine described EEHV as “one of the most devastating viral infections in elephants.” She said that the zoo reached out to experts when Nyah began exhibiting symptoms.
EEHV was first identified in elephants in 1995, following the death of a 16-month-old Asian elephant named Kumari, according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. EEHV has been linked to about half of the deaths of young elephants in zoos. In November, for example, a 6-year-old Asian elephant named Lily died of the virus at the Oregon Zoo. A month earlier, two Asian elephant calves at Chester Zoo in the UK died of EEHV.
The virus can cause hemorrhagic disease in elephants and there is currently no vaccine, the zoo said in its statement. It is more common among Asian, rather than African, elephants. Erin Latimer, the lab manager of the National Elephant Herpesvirus Laboratory at the Smithsonian, told Oregon Public Broadcasting that at least 40 young elephants in the US have died of the virus since it was first identified.
Laurendine told INSIDER that while the zoo staff is lamenting the loss of the two animals, the other elephants at the zoo are also in mourning.
“Elephants grieve and each elephant in the herd was given time after the deaths to help them understand why Nyah and Kalina will not be with them anymore,” she said. “Our zoo family is devastated.”
- Read more:
- A photographer captured the last images of Kenya’s ‘elephant queen’ just before her death
- Runaway elephant returned to upstate New York sanctuary
- Elephants at the Oregon Zoo had a blast stomping on giant pumpkins and the video is super adorable
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.