3 Jumbo deaths in 25 days bare the ‘jumbo’ neglect in Vet care in Odisha zoos

Faithful implementation of elephant task force report titled Gajah could have prevented such jumbo tragedy in Odisha's premier zoo

Bhubaneswar: In Odisha, diseases are also a major killer of jumbos. Diseases had killed at least two elephants of nearly six elephant deaths every month last financial year (2018-19).

The recent death of three juvenile jumbos at Nandankannan Zoo in less than a month has once again put the glare on lax jumbo care prevailing in the State.

The succumbing of 7-year old female elephant to EEHV attack (Elephant Endotheliotrophic Herpes Virus) yesterday and reporting of the first death on August 27 in State’s premier zoo bares the lack of effective veterinary care here.

Given the incubation period (time of exposure to manifestation of symptoms) of EEHV ranges from 7-14 days, and when death of a diseased jumbo takes at least 24-48 hours post the incubation period,  the spread of the infection to other jumbo inmates since the death of first juvenile elephant puts the entire thing in the right perspective.

The precious lives of the pachyderms could have been saved had the State Forest Department and zoo authorities have implemented the recommendation of the Elephant Task Force Report titled ‘Gajah’ submitted nearly a decade ago in 2010.

For a better veterinary care of jumbos, the report had very categorically asked for a separate cadre of veterinarians having expertise and knowledge of elephant treatment. And it had also recommended posting of such vet experts at the elephant habitant centres.

As per the veterinary protocol for elephants, the zoo authorities had to maintain a regular vigil of jumbos developing any oral ulcers or lesions in tongue, besides carrying out a general health assessment. The plausible reason behind such regular monitoring of jumbos is EEHV requires aggressive early treatment, else the mortality rate of jumbos would then will be very high.

Though the risk factors of EEHV till date are not specified, the epidemiological fact of EEHV shows that stress due to previous illness or other factors emerge as a major risk factor for EEHV attacks.

As per wildlife experts, regular monitoring of the veterinary needs of elephants in the zoo could have alerted the authorities of EEHV infection, and an aggressive early treatment with anti-viral drug flamciclovir could have played a major role in recovery from the lethal viral disease.

In contrast, the zoo authorities here depend on expertise treatment from veterinarians of Centre for Wildlife Health at Orissa University of Agriculture Technology (OUAT). Now, OUAT vet experts have prepared a contingency treatment plan for the infected pachyderms in the zoo. And as per the  plan, the remaining five elephants are now under constant observation and anti-viral doses were also being administered to them, informed senior zoo officials.