Posted on 04th September 2018 by Media Relations
The Taronga family is devastated by the sudden loss of its beloved female Asian Elephant Tukta. Tukta passed away yesterday following a sudden and acute onset of Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV). EEHV is present in almost all Asian Elephants both in the wild and in zoos however it only causes illnesses in some young elephants and when it does is almost always fatal.
On Monday the Elephant Keepers noticed that Tukta, who was born at Taronga Zoo Sydney eight years ago, was lethargic and off her food and notified the Taronga Veterinary team. As a result, vets made the decision to commence emergency treatment in response to a suspected case of EEHV. Despite the swift action of everyone involved, she tragically lost her fight against the virus later that afternoon.
Taronga Director and CEO Cameron Kerr said losing Tukta was like losing family, and that staff and volunteers are devastated.
“Our hearts are broken by Tukta’s sudden and unexpected loss. She was a much-loved member of Taronga’s Elephant herd who loved caring for her little brother Jai Dee,” Mr Kerr said.
This is a heartbreaking setback for the Australasian regional breeding program to conserve this endangered species, a program that Taronga was contributing to significantly with six calves born to date. Tukta was the third calf born into this program at Taronga Zoo Sydney.
“Right now, our focus is on supporting our dedicated Elephant Keeper Team and Tukta’s family, including mother Pak Boon, brother Jai Dee and aunt Tang Mo,” said Mr Kerr.
“The decision to make a veterinary intervention is always made quickly where necessary, and Tukta was receiving the best care and expertise available in Australasia,” he said.
Senior Veterinarian Dr Larry Vogelnest said that her symptoms required immediate emergency action.
“As soon as I examined Tukta in the morning we suspected EEHV disease in its early stages, and commenced treatment immediately. EEHV is often fatal and the disease progresses rapidly. Unfortunately we could not save her and we are all devastated by the outcome,’ said Dr Vogelnest.
“The virus that Tukta succumbed to is naturally carried by Asian Elephants, and occasionally causes disease in elephants, most commonly between one and eight years of age. There is no vaccine available for this virus, and at present drug treatment is effective only in one-third of cases,” Dr Vogelnest said. EEHV poses no risk to humans.
Taronga Zoo Sydney guests are encouraged to leave a message of condolence and support for the Elephant Keeper team below.