Nov 11, 2008

MAC - R.I.P.

-FUPPETS- mourns the passing of not just the Phoenix Mars Lander, but of the 2 year-old asian elephant, named MAC, who died of the elephant herpes virus. The viral infection worked it's way through Mac swiftly and he died with his mom, Shanti, and his aunt, Methai, standing by his side.

Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) is a recent discovery. The virus was identified in 1995 by researchers at the Smithsonian National Zoo and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Many animals and humans carry herpesviruses throughout their lives and never become sick. For reasons not fully understood, herpesviruses can come out of latency and circulate through the bloodstream. Most elephants are able to fight the virus and survive when it comes out of latency. Calves appear to be most susceptible to the virus after they have been weaned.
Herpesviruses are not limited to elephants in zoos; herpesviruses are found in wild elephants. In fact, wild elephants in Asia have died from EEHV. The Houston Zoo, the AZA, the International Elephant Foundation and other zoos and institutions are supporting the effort of the National Elephant Herpesvirus Laboratory at the Smithsonian National Zoo on testing and treatment for the disease that will contribute to the long-term survival of the species in both zoo and wild populations.

Mac was born October 1, 2006 at the Houston Zoo and set a birth weight record for Asian elephants in captivity – 384 pounds.

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