Super virus kills elephants in Zurich Zoo

There are only five elephants left in the 11,000 m² enclosure of the zoo in Zurich, the largest city in Switzerland.


The 2-year-old male elephant Umesh was the first victim of the EEHV (Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus) in late June. Just a few days later, Umesh’s 8-year-old “sister” Omysha also died.

On July 23, Ruwani, a 5-year-old female from the second-generation herd, died.

The above mentioned elephants were attacked by the herpes virus at an extremely fast pace, causing internal bleeding and organ failure in young Asian elephants.

Under captive conditions, this virus is “the main cause of death for elephants aged 2 to 8,” said zoo director Pascal Marty to AFP news agency. He said the virus is known to kill elephants in the wild, but “it is harder to detect”.

The herpes virus is latent in almost all elephant species, both in the wild and in captivity. However, in some cases, the virus can suddenly erupt, becoming fatal and killing its victims in a matter of days.

“We still do not know why and when it happens,” Marty said.

The Zurich Zoo built a new elephant enclosure in 2014, providing its elephants with more than six times the space they had before.

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