Indianapolis Zoo hosts the African Elephant EEHV Workshop
Over 80 attendees from 32 zoos, four universities, and three laboratories across North America came together for a two-day workshop focused on learning more about the impact and management of elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) on our African Elephants. For more than a decade, EEHV has been recognized as the single largest cause of death of Asian elephants born in North America and has caused illness or death in over 40 Asian elephants in North America since 1980. Historically African elephants have been less impacted by EEHV. This changed in 2019, when EEHV caused death in three African elephants; early diagnosis and intensive treatment facilitated the survival of four additional African elephants from EEHV-induced illness.
This workshop brought together subject matter experts on EEHV and elephant caretakers and veterinarians from institutions that care for African elephants. Building on the EEHV research community’s strong understanding of EEHV in Asian elephants, the workshop focused on education and recommendations for preparation, early detection, and treatment of disease. The workshop speakers highlighted the need for institution wide EEHV preparedness, including emphasis on young elephant training and acclimatization to sample collection and treatment behaviors, and the importance of having equipment and antiviral drugs available ahead of time. Preliminary research has showed several differences in the behavior of the EEHV virus in African elephants versus Asian elephants, which may impact future recommendations for monitoring and treatment. Currently, there is still a lot our community does not know about the behavior of this deadly virus in African elephants. The AZA and EEHV Research communities are coming together to lead several studies that will provide evidence-based recommendations in the next two years.