ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After the recent loss of two young elephants from a very contagious virus, Albuquerque’s zoo and the BioPark Society are looking for a new way to detect the virus sooner and prevent more elephant deaths. The zoo and the BioPark Society want to raise enough money to create a research facility to study the virus and bring real-time testing.
“The value of us having our own lab would be that we could get instant results. There would be no delay whatsoever on anything,” said Julie Miller Rugg, BioPark Society executive director.
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Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus has killed three elephants in the last seven years. Last month, three-year-old Thorn and eight-year-old Jazmine died soon after being diagnosed. The BioPark says when they got sick, they had to ship blood samples out and results can take up to 48 hours or longer over holidays. The new research site at the zoo would provide immediate results and treatments could start sooner.
They would also be able to study the virus, with hopes of one day having a vaccine. When the virus took Daisy in 2015, it had a mortality rate of 80 percent in younger elephants. That mortality rate is now down to 60 percent.
“The equipment is actually fairly affordable, less than $100,000 and then it’s the continual support to keep the lab running, the reagents, the other chemicals we need to run the labs,” said BioPark Associate Director, Bob Lee.
The BioPark also believes they could help other zoos with the testing if their elephants are sick. The BioPark Society says as of Monday morning, members have donated close to $20,000 for the facility and have only opened donations to its members. The public can begin donating on their main website on Wednesday.