An elephant calf living at Chester Zoo defied the odds by making an incredible recovery from the deadly EEHV virus.
EEHV, also known as elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus, is a deadly virus which is threatening the long-term survival of endangered Asian elephants.
It is thought most Asian elephants carry EEHV but it can cause a highly fatal hemorrhagic disease when transmitted to young elephants.
In October 2018, Chester Zoo lost two elephants, three-year-old Nandita Hi Way and 18-month-old Aayu Hi Way, to the virus. A team from Chester Zoo, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and the University of Surrey have been at the forefront of attempts to find a solution.
In March, thanks to ground-breaking developments in early detection and treatment methods, keepers, vets and scientists were able to detect the virus in Indali Hi Way, the two-year-old calf, earlier than ever before at the zoo, the Chester Standard reports.
They detected EEHV using high-tech, on-site bloodtesting techniques developed in partnership with the APHA and the University of Surrey.
Specialists were able to begin treatment before the calf started showing symptoms. During a two-week period she received round-the-clock care, including nine anaesthetic procedures, blood plasma transfusions, interferon therapy, anti-viral medications, immune boosting treatments and large amounts of intravenous fluid.
On April 2, experts ceased their treatments as they believed the elephant had entered a recovery phase.
Keepers at Chester Zoo then helped Indali get back to a normal daily routine alongside the other members of the herd. The animal is thought to have benefited greatly from reconnecting with her fellow elephants, including mum Sundara and 18-month-old half-brother, Anjan.
After monitoring Indali for two months, conservationists at the zoo have declared her recovery complete; a major milestone in the fight against EEHV.
The research by Chester Zoo, the APHA and the University of Surrey has been backed by more than £240,000 in public donations to the zoo. The ultimate goal is to develop an effective EEHV vaccine which could be rolled out worldwide.
The Chester Standard reports Dr Mark Pilgrim, chief executive officer at Chester Zoo, spoke about the incredible feat, saying:
Asian elephants are an endangered species and a world without them is unthinkable. We cannot underestimate the threat EEHV poses to their future survival.
But Indali, wonderful little fighter that she is, and her incredible survival story, has given us enormous hope.
Her recovery is a major milestone for conservation. Only two years ago, the global search for a solution to the EEHV crisis looked unlikely to bear fruit. Now, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
The CEO went on to thank those who had helped make Indali’s recovery possible, adding:
We are eternally grateful to the incredible work of the Animal and Plant Health Agency and experts at the University of Surrey, who have been battling against EEHV side-by-side with us for many years now. Indali would not be alive today without this conservation partnership.
Crucially, we must also thank each and every person and organisation who has donated to the zoo’s Never Forget campaign in recent years. Overwhelming public generosity has contributed more than £250,000 to the research fund, accelerating our progress and getting us closer to a vaccine quicker than we ever thought possible.
On August 11, Chester Zoo will host its third annual Summer Stampede fundraising event to raise money for the Never Forget campaign, which continues to fund EEHV research.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.