The Oregon Zoo is mourning the death of Lily, the facility’s youngest elephant who unfortunately passed away just a day before she turned six years old.

What is elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV)?

Lily The Elephant

On Nov. 30, the Oregon Zoo announced that their youngest elephant Lily passed away on Thursday evening, just a day before she turned six. It was on Wednesday that laboratory tests from the Smithsonian revealed that EEHV was active in Lily at low levels. It is a quickly progressing disease that is often fatal and to which calves are particularly vulnerable. 

Lily became lethargic and disinterested in food the very next day and she unfortunately succumbed to the virus despite the exhaustive efforts of veterinarians and zoo staff. 

“I can't imagine a more devastating loss for this zoo family and our community. Lily was the darling of the zoo. She was loved by everyone from her elephant family to the people who cared for her every day to her thousands of fans. Our staff did everything they could and fought to save her until the very end. Everyone is in mourning here. It is just heartbreaking,” said zoo director Dr. Don Moore.

The zoo shut down operations on Friday and is expected to resume operations by Saturday, Dec. 1.

Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus

EEHV is a particularly virulent species of the herpes virus that was discovered in 1995. It is characterized by hemorrhages that result in death within 24 to 48 hours after onset. The mortality rate for EEHV is 85 percent, with calves being particularly susceptible. Some of its initial symptoms include lethargy, diarrhea, constipation, colic, lameness, and anorexia.

It is believed that most Asian elephants carry some form of EEHV in their bodies and remains latent until it becomes active for unknown reasons. Unfortunately, there is little to no time for treatment once the virus becomes active.

Since its discovery, it has been found to be responsible for a large number of deaths of Asian elephants ages 1 to 8. This is particularly problematic because Asian elephants are considered highly endangered, so every calf is precious in the conservation efforts.

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