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Celebrate Asian Elephant Awareness Month

By Rachel Emory and Danielle Ross
min read

AZA SAFE Asian Elephant Supporting the Monitoring and Treatment of EEHV in Asian Elephant Range States

AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction Asian Elephant

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ SAFE Asian elephant program is enhancing Asian elephant conservation efforts within 13 Asian elephant range countries. During the month of August, the program is focused on two objectives:

  • Asian Elephant Awareness Month Campaign: August is Asian Elephant Awareness Month, and the SAFE Asian elephant team and AZA-accredited facilities are raising awareness about Asian elephants and encouraging people to take conservation action.
  • EEHV Monitoring and Treatment Support: We aim to provide support for the monitoring and treatment of EEHV in Asian elephant range states by engaging elephant care professionals with conservation-impact opportunities. We help elephant care professionals contribute to this EEHV initiative through fundraising.

Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV)

Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) is a type of herpesvirus that can cause a fatal hemorrhagic disease in young elephants. EEHV often effects Asian elephants between the ages of one-to-eight years of age and is the leading cause of death in Asian elephants in North America and Europe. The virus can often be detected in blood samples using quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR) testing prior to physical symptoms being observed. Early detection and rapid treatment are key to the survival of these young animals.

EEHV Support in Asian Elephant Range States

From 2003-2018, there were 124 EEHV cases reported in Asia with an 82 percent fatality rate. Many more cases go unreported due to the limited number of laboratories capable of EEHV surveillance. The SAFE Asian elephant program is collaborating with EMA, the EEHV Advisory Group, and the International Elephant Foundation to build monitoring and treatment capacity for this deadly virus within range states.

Baby and adult elephant

Support of EEHV Monitoring and Treatment

SAFE Asian elephant collaborates with the EEHV Advisory Group and the International Elephant Foundation to identify areas of need within the Asian elephant range states. Funds raised by the SAFE Asian elephant program are then distributed by the EEHV Advisory Group to increase in situ capacity for EEHV monitoring and treatment through the purchase of medications, treatment supplies, laboratory equipment, and personnel training.

Most recently, SAFE Asian elephant supported the development of a qPCR laboratory at the National Trust for Nature Conservation in Chitwan, Nepal. This laboratory serves as the reference laboratory for diagnosis in Nepal, including elephants held at all three national parks, the nature preserve, and privately held elephants.

Fundraising and Community Engagement: We Need Your Help!

Host a Local Fundraiser

The SAFE Asian elephant program encourages elephant professionals to host local fundraisers to engage and educate our communities about EEHV while also raising funds that support EEHV capacity in range states. For example:

  • Partner with a local bakery to create a signature cupcake to be sold during Asian Elephant Awareness Month with 50 percent of proceeds donated.
  • Partner with a local brewery for an event night with 20 percent of total proceeds donated.
  • Sell raffle tickets for a VIP experience at your facility with the elephants.

If you don’t know where to start, the SAFE Asian elephant program has developed a toolkit with tips, tricks, and templates to provide a roadmap for success. Contact Rachel Emory (remory@okczoo.org) for details.

SAFE Tshirt

Support Established Conservation Fundraisers

The SAFE Asian elephant program and the Elephant Managers Association also partnered to design a t-shirt fundraiser in support of EEHV monitoring and treatment in range states.

Proceeds from these shirts go towards the purchase of EEHV medications, treatment supplies, laboratory equipment, and personnel training in Asian elephant range states. Shirts can be purchased by visiting the Elephant Managers Association website and clicking ‘shop’.

Participate in the Asian Elephant Awareness Month Campaign

In addition, we encourage all AZA facilities and visitors join in the celebration of Asian Elephant Awareness Month during the month of August. This campaign focuses on raising awareness of the following:

  • Asian elephants are important and we should protect the species and the habitat.
  • The number one threat to Asian elephants is habitat loss. This reduction in habitat is often due to unsustainably farmed palm oil. You can help elephants by downloading and using the Sustainable Shopping App (Cheyenne Mountain Zoo). 
  • EEHV is the leading cause of death of Asian elephants in North America and Europe. Scientists are working diligently to develop a vaccine. Support AZA-accredited zoos and partners in the effort to put an end to this deadly virus.

Visit the SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction group on the AZA Network for graphics and other messages from the toolkit to share with your followers. The public engagement team has created a toolkit to be used throughout August to promote the campaign.

Share your thumbs up selfies and your love of elephants using #ThumbsUpTrunksUp. Follow the Oklahoma City Zoo on TikTok to tell us you love elephants, without telling us you love elephants.

Photos credit: ©Gillian Lang, Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden

Rachel Emory is the curator of elephants and rhinos at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden.

Danielle Ross is the vice president of conservation education and engagement at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.


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