Second elephant in a week dies of herpes virus in Indianapolis Zoo

Kalina, an 8-year-old African elephant, died Tuesday from a type of herpes virus, a week after another young elephant in the zoo died of the same type of virus.
(Indianapolis Zoo)

A young African elephant died in the Zoo of Indianapolis on Tuesday of an incurable type of herpes virus, becoming the zoo’s second youngster to die from the virus in a week.

The elephant also became the fourth zoo elephant to die in the U.S. within a month, regardless of the cause.

Kalina, 8, died a week after the 6-year-old nyah, also an African elephant, died from the same type of herpes virus found only in elephants, said Rob Shumaker, chairman of the Indianapolis Zoo.


“Our zoo family is heartbroken,” he said.

The two elephants tested for a high level of elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus (EEHV), a type of herpes virus that can cause fatal hemorrhagic disease in mammals, Shumaker told the FOX59 Indianapolis. The virus, which can spread to people or other animals, shows no warning signs, has no vaccine and no way to prevent it.

Kalina and nyah, the two youngest of the zoo’s elephant herd, both deceased, 48 hours after contracting mild abdominal pain and loss of appetite, the Indianapolis Star reported. They were both in the highest risk period for the disease, which is considered to be between 1 and 8 years old. The disease has an 85 percent mortality rate.

The affected zoo was not only in the sadness of the animals dead.

“This is probably just as difficult for our elephants. We know that elephants mourn. They are intensely social,” Shumaker told the Star. “And we have seen some pretty dramatic reactions of the rest of the herd.”


The two Indianapolis deaths brought the total number of elephant deaths in the US to four in a month. Earlier in March, a 55-year-old Asian elephant was killed at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, because irreversible kidney damage is hurting her quality of life.

At the end of February, a 50-year-old African elephant, died at the Miami zoo after fighting with another elderly elephant.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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