One of Taronga Zoo’s endangered Asian elephants named Tukta has passed away suddenly after suffering from a fast-moving and deadly case of the herpes virus.
Zoo keepers at the Sydney park noticed that the eight-year-old female elephant was lethargic and not eating properly on Monday.
A team of vets at the zoo commenced emergency treatment on the animal for suspected elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus.
Vet Larry Vogelnest examined Tukta on Monday morning and said that the disease, which can infect and sometimes kill elephants up to the age of eight, appeared to be in the early stages.
Despite the team’s best efforts to treat Tukta, she died later that afternoon.
“There is no vaccine available for this virus and at present drug treatment is effective only in one-third of cases,” said Dr Vogelnest in a statement on Tuesday.
Taronga Zoo has been completely rattled by the sudden death of their beloved elephant and in a statement released on Tuesday they expressed their devastation.
“Our hearts are broken by Tukta’s sudden and unexpected loss,” said Taronga chief executive Cameron Kerr in the statement.
“She was a much-loved member of Taronga’s elephant herd who loved caring for her little brother Jai Dee.”
A spokesperson from the zoo also told AAP that Tukta’s brother Jai Dee is now being given preventative antiviral treatment while the other two elephants in the enclosure are not susceptible to the disease because of their age.
Tukta’s death has also come as a blow to the zoo’s current breeding program which is working towards conserving the endangered species. She was the third out of a total six elephants to be born into the program at Taronga.
The spokesperson for the zoo said that they don’t yet have any plans for a memorial or grave site for Tukta.