Feb. 26 update: The Saint Louis Zoo continues to mourn the devastating loss of its beloved Kenzi, the first Asian elephant to die from EEHV at the Zoo. While the elephant care team continues to grieve, they are determined to continue leading the way in efforts to fight EEHV.
For several years, the Zoo has joined other elephant care facilities in actively supporting EEHV research efforts. Support for EEHV research is being led by zoos in North America, Asia and Europe through the EEHV Advisory Group. With the combined efforts of zoos and research institutions, there is progress being made in the diagnosis of, treatment recommendations and work toward a vaccine in the fight against this virus threatening elephants globally in the wild and in human care.
As of today, the latest test results continue to indicate negative EEHV results for the Zoo's elephants. Since this herpesvirus most frequently occurs in younger elephants, the Zoo continues to provide prophylactic treatment to 4-year-old Priya and will continue to conduct regular testing.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Feb. 24, 2018
SAINT LOUIS ZOO ELEPHANT KENZI DIES
Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) is a viral infection shown to be fatal to wild elephants and elephants in human care
The Saint Louis Zoo has said goodbye to Kenzi, a 6-year-old Asian elephant calf who was the daughter of Raja and Rani. She succumbed to elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) — specifically, EEHV-1A — at 1:14 a.m. CT on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018. EEHV is a viral infection shown to be fatal to wild elephants and elephants in human care.
"This is a devastating loss for Kenzi's family, the elephant care team and the St. Louis community," said Martha Fischer, Curator of Ungulates and Elephants. "Those who cared for Kenzi every day are understandably grieving. We put our hearts and souls into trying to save her."
The Zoo routinely and proactively tests the elephants for EEHV as part of its comprehensive health monitoring program for this species. Kenzi was diagnosed with EEHV-1A on February 20 from a blood sample that was taken on February 19. The sample was submitted to the National Elephant Herpesvirus Lab (NEHL) at the Smithsonian's National Zoo, which is a worldwide resource of elephant herpesvirus information, testing and research for the global elephant community.
When EEHV was suspected, Kenzi immediately started on anti-viral medication. She received round-the-clock care from the veterinary and keeper staff.
"I can't say enough about the dedication of our team," added Fischer. "Our keepers and veterinarians left no stone unturned in search of new ideas and treatments that could save Kenzi's life."
The Saint Louis Zoo has been a leader in pursuing the latest EEHV detection and testing protocols. EEHV is a recent discovery, identified in 1995 by researchers at Smithsonian National Zoo. Since its discovery, the virus has been identified in elephants in U.S., Europe and in Asia.
Zoo veterinarians and curators routinely confer with EEHV experts across the country. For several years, the Zoo has joined other North American elephant care facilities in actively supporting EEHV research efforts.
All of the elephants at the Zoo are under close monitoring for EEHV. At this time, no others are testing positive. Historically, this herpesvirus most frequently occurs in elephants younger than seven years old. As such, the Zoo is providing prophylactic treatment to 4-year-old Priya and will continue to conduct regular testing.
The Zoo's elephant care team successfully treated 11-year-olds Jade and Maliha for two different types of EEHV-1 on two separate occasions.
There are fewer than 35,000 Asian elephants left in the wild, and they are facing extinction. Given the shrinking population of Asian elephants, the Saint Louis Zoo is committed to conserve this species. Also, the Zoo supports the welfare and conservation of Asian elephants in Sumatra and other countries in Asia through the International Elephant Foundation, as well as the conservation of African elephants in Kenya.
The welfare of all of the Zoo's animals is its highest priority. To learn how the Asian elephants at the Zoo get the best of care, go here: www.stlzoo.org/elephantcare.