Elephant Dies from Herpes, Sydney’s Taronga Zoo Heartbroken

By Mimi Nguyen-ly

A young elephant named Tukta from Sydney’s Taronga Zoo suddenly died from an acute onset of a herpes virus.

The 8-year-old Asian elephant, Tukta, was not eating and was lethargic on Monday, Sept. 3,  and suddenly passed away in the afternoon, despite emergency treatment.

Her death was like losing family, and staff and volunteers of the zoo are devastated, Taronga Director and CEO Cameron Kerr said.

“Our hearts are broken by Tukta’s sudden and unexpected loss,” Kerr said.

It is with deep sadness we share the news that Tukta, our young Asian Elephant, passed away yesterday due to a sudden…

Posted by Taronga Zoo Sydney on Monday, September 3, 2018

The Taronga Veterinary team said she passed away from a suspected case of Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV).

The virus does not affect humans, but is present in almost all Asian elephants, both in the wild and in zoos. It only causes some young elephants to fall ill—but when it does, it is almost always deadly, Taronga Zoo said in a release.

Senior Veterinarian Dr Larry Vogelnest said that the symptoms Tukta presented with needed emergency action.

“As soon as I examined Tukta in the morning we suspected EEHV disease in its early stages, and commenced treatment immediately,” Vogelnest said.

“EEHV is often fatal and the disease progresses rapidly. Unfortunately we could not save her and we are all devastated by the outcome.”

Vogelnest said that drug treatment can only resolve one-third of EEHV cases and that there is no vaccine available for the virus.

First Female Asian Elephant at Taronga

Tukta was born in November 2010 and is the first female Asian elephant at Taronga Zoo Sydney.

She was the third elephant calf born out of the six that Taronga Zoo had overseen in an Australasian regional breeding program to conserve the endangered elephant species.

“She was a much-loved member of Taronga’s Elephant herd who loved caring for her little brother, Jai Dee,” Kerr said. “Tukta was receiving the best care and expertise available in Australasia.”

“Right now, our focus is on supporting our dedicated Elephant Keeper Team and Tukta’s family, including mother Pak Boon, brother Jai Dee and aunt Tang Mo,” Kerr added.