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Chester Zoo The Future of Chester's Elephant Breeding Program

Discussion in 'United Kingdom' started by Hyak_II, 25 Oct 2018.

  1. Hyak_II

    Hyak_II Well-Known Member

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    [Mod's edit: This thread has been split from Headline News, partly because it is still a highly emotive subject, and partly because I expect it to produce quite a lot of debate.
    For later readers the thread is in response to the deaths of two of Chester's calves: Two elephant calves at Chester Zoo die after contracting deadly virus]


    This is very sad news, but I'm just going to come out and say it. Chester should end their breeding program. Of the past 9 calves born there, SEVEN have died, all of EEHV, only the two youngest surviving (ya ya, I know indali is a few months older than Anjan). Send out their cows to no breeding institutions, and bring in some news cows, get a fresh start, so to speak.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 25 Oct 2018
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  2. Panthera1981

    Panthera1981 Well-Known Member

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    Quite a brutal assessment but it probably needed saying. However, you do wonder what the future holds for this group as it’s all rather “one step forward, two steps back.” Surely it can’t be good for the long term mentality of the herd?

    Would EAZA step in if this continues?
     
  3. Gigit

    Gigit Well-Known Member

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    Regular Chester visitors will know more than me, but when I spoke to a Presenter last year, I got the impression that they'd continue breeding because it's natural behaviour for the elephants and it would help them in their research into herpes.
     
  4. Brum

    Brum Well-Known Member

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    As harsh as this statement is, it's also one I've pondered about myself. It would be tough for the staff but Chester have a great breeding set up and it's a crying shame that they are having such bad luck. The only other alternative is to let the herd live out their lives at Chester then start afresh, but as I said previously, the facilities at Chester are amongst the best in the UK and it would be a shame not to see it utilised to its full potential.

    A tough choice for all involved :(
     
  5. Panthera1981

    Panthera1981 Well-Known Member

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    No doubt this news will provide further ammunition for the anti-zoo lobby but has Chester ever identified the source/carrier?

    Based on Whipsnade’s experience with the virus, they “believed” it was due to one or more of their cows previously coming into contact with African elephants at some point. Again, this was a tentative assumption.

    Nonetheless, this is a shocking run of form!
     
  6. gentle lemur

    gentle lemur Well-Known Member

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    Of course the situation is very serious, but I can't see what EAZA could do to improve things, beyond assisting the research programme that is already underway at Chester. It would surely be wrong on welfare grounds to break up the Chester herd. Perhaps Chester's animals have a particularly virulent strain of the virus, so sending animals to other zoos would be irresponsible - particularly if there is still no explanation for Sithami's sudden death.
    I am no expert, but I believe that Sundara's reproductive health depends on her eventually mating and conceiving again once Indali is weaned (deo volente). On the other hand, Thi must be near the end of her reproductive life, so she may never have another calf after Aayu.
    We can only hope that something new can be learned from these cases. Better ways of monitoring and treating the infection will be found one day.
     
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  7. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    Possibly it would have been better to wait a bit before broaching this, but so many of us must have been considering it.
    I have a question: if a male calf survived to adulthood, would it be 'safe' for it to be transferred to another facility, in terms of not spreading this horrendous problem? I don't fully understand how the virus is carried and transmitted.
     
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  8. Panthera1981

    Panthera1981 Well-Known Member

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    This has already happened with Whipsnade’s males offspring , starting with Euan to a non-breeding facility in Spain (unless he’s now been transferred!)
     
  9. Nisha

    Nisha Well-Known Member

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    Nobody does. This is part of the problem. So little is known about EEHV (despite the ongoing research) that it's so far proved impossible to treat.
    Euan went to join a bachelor group of 7 males at Sevilla. Unfortunately in April 2017 they were fed contaminated food and 6 of the 7 males (including Euan) died.
     
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  10. Gigit

    Gigit Well-Known Member

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    Sithami - there's a media report this morning that says her death was unrelated. Tests revealed she had a stomach ulcer which burst, causing blood poisoning.
     
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  11. Panthera1981

    Panthera1981 Well-Known Member

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    A thought - would it be better if Chester delayed the rates at which the cows were bred? Obviously EEHV can strike any young calf and EEP recommendations must be met, but could an increased gap between births help? Wouldn’t an increased recovery time benefit the cows?

    Admittedly I’m not a regular Chester visitor (I wish I was!) and, though I commend their breeding successes, looking from the outside in their elephant breeding is almost machine-like!
     
  12. taun

    taun Well-Known Member

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    I don't understand what you are saying, how does this relate to the birth gap between calves?

    I have never read anything that would suggest it was, in fact all papers on it don't seem to know the trigger. Which is way I believe Chester take regular blood tests to get early signs on the virus to be able to try and treat it.
     
  13. Panthera1981

    Panthera1981 Well-Known Member

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    Apologies, I probably could have worded this better!

    Essentially, does an older calf (say of 6) have a better chance of survival of one between 18 months/3 years? Or is this irrelevant?
     
  14. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member

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    It seems there is a need of still more early diagnosis of elephant herpes. I know that wild animals usually hide any weakness until too late.

    I wonder if the zoo can review the CCTV footage and see if something changed in behavior or mobility of their elephants few days earlier.

    Or perhaps things like blood pressure or heart rate (can it be readily measured in an elephant?) can signal the problem.
     
  15. gentle lemur

    gentle lemur Well-Known Member

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    Correction: I'm sorry, I meant Anjan, as Aayu was Sithami's calf that died yesterday.
     
  16. Indlovu

    Indlovu Well-Known Member

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    There has been some suggestion that EEHV seems to affect calves around weaning age. Nandita's death comes within a few months of Thi having another calf at foot, and Aayu (who is the youngest calf Chester have lost to EEHV, I might add) was Sithami's.

    That said, there were over two years between the death of Jamilah, who was around two and a half years old at the time of her death, and the birth of Nandita, so gap between calves can't tell a full story.
     
  17. taun

    taun Well-Known Member

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    I know it happens usually between 2 and 6 years of age. I have previously suggested there could a be link between weaning around 2 and the virus (but I am not expect in the matter).

    Even if the cows give birth every two years the older calf would be weaning off the milk anyway so I don't see how it can relate to the virus being activated.

    From what was suggested they do regular, potentially daily blood tests which will pick up the virus.
     
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  18. Zia

    Zia Well-Known Member

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    Until the science tells us more then I believe they must continue - as hard as that may be. They are not taking a chance on something that causes the calves pain and suffering throughout their lives and at this point there is nothing concrete to explain why Chester's herd has lost so many to the virus. Of course their breeding success puts them in the 'firing line' more often which doesn't help matters.

    Does anyone know if all of the Chester calves who have died have been from the same Bull? I often see people asking questions about the mothers - but with calves from different mothers be affected I wonder if there is something genetic going on via the father. I myself have a faulty BRCA2 gene and was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 32. The BRCA genes are tumour suppressors. Rather than 'casuing' cancer the mutation(s) that people have mean that they are not afforded the same level of protection against tumours as the rest of the population. I wonder if there is something similar going on with Asian elephants - that there is something wrong with the immune system of those that fall victim to the virus while other are carriers and seemingly unaffected.
     
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  19. Zia

    Zia Well-Known Member

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    That was my understanding too.
     
  20. Nisha

    Nisha Well-Known Member

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    The first 5 (Raman, Nayan, Jameliah, Bala and Hari) were all sired by Upali. Nandita and Auyu were Aung Bo's offspring

    Upali went to Dublin in 2012 and has sired at least 7 (touch wood) healthy calves since then