Update on Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV) in Asian Elephant Range Countries: A Report from the 3rd EEHV in Asia Working Group Meeting
Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) is the single greatest cause of death in Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) born in the USA and throughout Europe since the 1980s. The virus has been intensively studied in these populations over the last ten years, and, though there is still much to learn, great strides in early detection and aggressive treatment have been made.
Veterinarians from eight Asian elephant range countries (Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand) representing a total of 54,000 Asian elephants (14,000 under human care and 40,000 free ranging), attended the 3rd EEHV in Asia Working Group meeting in Thailand in November 2017. Over 130 cases of EEHV hemorrhagic disease (EEHV HD) have been reported from these countries, with 12 of these confirmed in free ranging elephants in India. Of 139 cases reported throughout Asia, three elephants survived with treatment in Nepal, and three elephants survived with treatment in Thailand.
Regional summaries, clinical case management techniques, and laboratory diagnostics were presented. Break-out sessions defined challenges, resource needs, and research priorities. A PCR-training workshop was held prior to the main session to build the capacity in properly diagnosing EEHV in the key range countries. An EEHV Asia information booklet was updated and currently serves as a valuable reference especially in places where the internet is not readily available. It contains all basic EEHV information and illustrative photos needed for diagnosis, treatment, and management. This collaborative effort aims to provide support and resources to conserve increasingly endangered populations of Asian elephants in range countries.
Future directions in Asian elephant range countries include establishing more EEHV PCR laboratories; continuing education of mahouts, veterinarians, and government officials; and identifying resources for antiviral drug availability. First steps in evaluating the impact of EEHV on free ranging elephants includes determining non-invasive methods to detect EEHV shedding in elephants and identifying key elephant populations to study.
The authors would like to acknowledge the dedicated partnerships between Wildlife Reserves Singapore, Chiang Mai University, EAZA, and AZA members, including Houston Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.