Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) is a devastating virus, which seems to have a relatively greater impact on elephants in captivity than those in the wild. We can only assume that some aspect of the restrictions and stresses of life in captivity puts young elephants at serious risk from the disease. In zoos in some regions of the world, EEHV is the single greatest cause of death in young Asian elephants.
Sadly, Chester Zoo has had a long tragic history of deaths from this disease: five elephants succumbed to the disease in the six years up to 2015. While our thoughts are with the keepers and the remaining elephants at Chester Zoo, we must also ask some serious questions: given that it is widely acknowledged that elephant populations in zoos are not sustainable, and when life in a zoo is so different to life in the wild in a family-based herd, why are zoos continuing to keep and breed elephants only for them to face death at a young age from EEHV?
Born Free is convinced that life in zoos greatly compromises elephant welfare and does little or nothing to assist in the protection of elephant populations where they belong – in the wild.
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