After being diagnosed with elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV), Jazmine, the ABQ BioPark’s eight-year-old Asian elephant, died from the effects of her infection on January 2. The BioPark provided round-the-clock treatment since the virus was first detected in Jazmine’s bloodwork on December 28. The same virus claimed the life of her brother Thorn on Christmas Day.
“The BioPark’s elephant experts and veterinary teams did everything in their power – and then some – to help Jazmine,” ABQ BioPark Director Stephanie Stowell said, “and Jazmine matched their efforts every step along the way. True to her strong-willed nature, Jazmine fought valiantly against the disease.”
Adding to the anguish of losing a beloved animal, Jazmine’s death marks a considerable loss to the future of Asian elephants. Jazmine was on a carefully planned path to becoming an elephant matriarch. Because of the BioPark’s innovative elephant care program, Jazmine grew up in an educated and multi-generational herd. Just like elephants in the wild, Jazmine was present when her brother Thorn was born. Human caretakers had to teach Jazmine’s mother Rozie how to be a mother, but Jazmine learned about birthing, nursing and caring for calves by watching her elephant mother. Jazmine could be seen “mothering” her favorite toy balls by gently tucking them under her belly and taking them with her as she traveled from yard to yard. Jazmine also gained valuable social skills during interactions with her grandmother Alice, unrelated “auntie” Irene, and mature bull Albert.
Had Jazmine survived, her skills and experiences would have enabled her to raise her own calves and lead elephants in her own multi-generational herd. The BioPark’s investment in Jazmine’s livelihood led the way for other accredited zoos to adapt their elephant care programs. Jazmine’s short life will have a long-term impact on other elephants in human care as well as in the wild.
All elephants can carry EEHV in a latent state throughout their entire lives without negative effects. It is not known why the virus sometimes comes out of latency. Elephants are most susceptible to EEHV from 18 months to 8 years of age. EEHV causes a hemorrhagic disease that can be fatal for young elephants. It is the leading cause of death for Asian elephant calves and can strike elephants in the wild and in human care.
“The global elephant community, including the North American EEHV Advisory Group, is working to fight this disease and prevent more deaths by sharing research results, samples, and treatment outcomes, and providing support for range country colleagues,” Erin Latimer, for the advisory group said. “Each case of EEHV hemorrhagic disease (EEHV HD), while tragic, does provide us with more information on its causes, transmission, and treatment. The elephant community rallied around ABQ BioPark to provide support with husbandry, treatment, and testing. We are devastated by these latest two deaths, and we hope that the incredible cooperation amongst our colleagues will continue to provide answers on how best to prevent these deaths.”
To provide round-the-clock care for Jazmine and maintain the highest standards of care for its healthy elephants, the BioPark received help from medical and elephant experts from across the country, including specialists from the St. Louis Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Houston Zoo, Oklahoma City Zoo, Fort Worth Zoo, Denver Zoo, African Lion Safari, the Elephant Managers Association and the National Elephant Herpesvirus Lab at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C.