It’s already been a difficult year for zoos, with most having to close their doors to the public due to lockdown restrictions.
Sadly, things got even worse for one zoo, who is now mourning the death of a beloved young elephant, who died of a rapid virus.
The Rosamond Gifford Zoo, in Syracuse, New York has been home to eight elephants, including Ajay, the youngest of the herd.
Sadly, the zoo announced yesterday that the calf had died, just a month short of his second birthday.
Ajay was the second child of elephants Mali and Doc. His carers described him as “the most precocious baby elephant the zoo ever experienced.”
He would often be seen running around playing with his brother Batu. As the baby of the herd, he was a favorite of the public, who helped choose his name in an online poll.
Sadly, a virus common among elephants quickly took his life: EEHV, or Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpes Virus, the most common killer of young Asian elephants.
The zoo detected EEHV in Batu after a blood test. The zoo is continuing to monitor the elephant, who remains asymptomatic.
While caring for his brother, the zoo also kept track of Ajay’s health, but he seemed to show no signs of the virus.
However, EEHV can exist in a latent form and suddenly become active. Ajay was his normal, playful self until Monday, when symptoms suddenly appeared. He developed a dark tongue and seemed tired.
Then the virus rapidly took hold. “Within two hours, despite the tireless efforts of the zoo and Cornell veterinary staff, he was gone,” said Rosamond Gifford Zoo Director Ted Fox.
“That is how awful this disease is, especially with young elephants. When it hits, it hits hard.”
The news of the Ajay’s sudden death devastated everyone at the zoo, as well as his many fans.
“Ajay was a very special little elephant and I know I speak for our entire Central New York community in expressing my deepest condolences to everyone at the zoo who took such good care of him,” said Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon.
Ajay’s name means “invincible,” which could be seen as a sad irony now, but Fox says he will remember the young elephant for his indomitable spirit.
“Although he was not invincible to this disease, Ajay definitely had an invincible personality and we will never, ever forget him,” Fox said
Rest in peace, Ajay. Our condolences to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo staff, their patrons and everyone whose life was touched by this sweet elephant.
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