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Elephant SSP Veterinary Advisor Report

September 2002


This report is being submitted to update the Elephant TAG/SSP on the current activities of the veterinary advisory group (John Lehnhardt, Michele Miller, Susan Mikota, Dick Montali). 


1.      Current informal survey of WNV vaccination practices in elephants – compiled information will be placed on the elephant listserve and AAZV website when available.

2.      Salmonella screening in elephants – currently one study underway in single herd of African elephants (10 animal); study will be expanded to include screening of asymptomatic elephants to provide information on the frequency of detection of Salmonella using PCR and culture.  Information may eventually be used for risk assessment in movement of animals and zoonotic concerns.

3.      Guidelines for comprehensive elephant health monitoring program and preshipment assessment will be published in the upcoming husbandry manual.  The guidelines will provide standardized diagnostic testing and preventive health recommendations for veterinarians caring for elephants.  In addition, these protocols will be available under VAG on the AAZV website.

4.      Elephant TB Working Group – revised USDA guidelines will be released October 2002 by the USDA-APHIS Animal Care.  There are significant changes addressing testing of elephants and modified treatment regimens.  These guidelines can be accessed at

5.      Elephant herpesvirus update – Laura Richman is working on a serologic test (ELISA) for EEHV that would detect antibody titers.  This may be a method of screening elephants for exposure to the virus in the future.  Currently the only available method of confirming the diagnosis of EEHV is detection of the virus in blood using PCR.  Recommendations for moving animals between institutions with consideration of herd or individual history was discussed during a conference call that included John Lehnhardt, Michele Miller, Dick Montali, Laura Richman, and Dennis Schmitt.  A set of the recommendations are attached to this report.

6.      Veterinary pathology advisor update – information is included in a separate report.  All institutions should continue to contact the veterinary pathology advisor, Dr. Dick Montali (National Zoo) about any elephant deaths.  A duplicate set of slides (or tissues) should be sent along with the necropsy report.  A complete copy of the necropsy report should also be forwarded to Dr. Genny Dumonceux (Busch Gardens) for the mortality database.

7.      Future goals: 

  1. Develop method for obtaining health data on the SSP population that can be compiled annually and used to detect health concern trends.  
  2. Set-up centralized elephant serum (and tissue?) bank that can provide materials for research and health monitoring programs.
  3. Create panel of “experts” on various elephant health problems that can serve as advisors to member institutions.

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