Another jumbo succumbs to herpes virus in Kerala

Published on Jul 07, 2021 12:39 AM IST

Another elephant died of herpes virus at Kerala’s Kottur elephant rehabilitation centre on Tuesday, officials said, after a calf’s death last week

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By, Thiruvananthapuram

Another elephant died of herpes virus at Kerala’s Kottur elephant rehabilitation centre on Tuesday, officials said, after a calf’s death last week.

Two calves have been infected, prompting officials to quarantine other animals and their keepers to check the spread of the disease at the centre.

EEHV, or elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus, can infect a wide range of animals including Asian elephants and cause sores and fever blisters.

On June 28, Sreekutty, a 19-month-old calf, was the first to succumb to the disease at the centre, which houses 16 elephants including 10 calves. Later the State Institute of Animal Diseases in Palode confirmed the presence of the virus.

Forest officials said an epidemiology study was underway to find out the source of the infection. The forest department has also constituted an expert team under Dr Jacob Alexander, Thiruvananthapuram zoo veterinary surgeon, and Dr T Rajeev, veterinary hospital assistant director.

“We are keeping a close watch on the situation. Experts are camping at the centre to contain the spread of the virus and save lives of other elephants, ” state animal husbandry minister J Chinchu Rani said. Officials said animals and keepers, who have been quarantined, were being administered anti-viral drugs.

A major tourist attraction, the centre has been closed for visitors for over a year now because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Earlier, two mahouts and two other workers at the centre were tested positive for Covid-19. They have since recovered.

Authorities are planning to develop Kottur, 35 km away from the state capital, into a mini “jumbo township” with an elephant museum, mahout training centre, a super-speciality hospital, a retirement home and crematorium for pachyderms on the lines of Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka. Once fully operational, the elephants will be set free in 65 hectares of forestland surrounded by trenches, said officials.

Usually abandoned and injured animals are admitted to the centre. The forest department can also bring captive elephants, which are often ill-treated and overworked by their owners, and admit them there. According to the last elephant census, the state has 507 captive jumbos, including 59 at Sree Krishna temple in Guruvayur.

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    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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