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Tucson Zoo Is Researching A Cure For A Deadly Elephant Virus

A herpes-like virus is threatening young elephants across the United States. More than a dozen have died in the United States. Two elephants died last March at the Indianapolis Zoo,  according to the zoo’s Facebook post. Although no elephants in Arizona currently have the virus, one Arizona zoo is partnering with a network of other zoos to research and find a cure.

The virus has existed for years among young Asian elephants,  but research shows young African elephants are also at risk. The Phoenix Zoo does not have young elephants, but Reid Park Zoo in Tucson does. 

"We’re really proud of what we’re doing right now in terms of preventative medicine," said Reid Park Zoo's chief veterinarian Alexis Roth. "We’re taking weekly samples of our elephants and sending them to a national lab ... and to be able to screen the elephants both via blood as well as trunk washes."

Reid Park zookeepers are especially interested because one of their elephants  is expecting later this spring. Reid Park’s CEO, Nancy Kluge, hopes that the work will help elephants both inside and outside the zoo.

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Emma VandenEinde was an intern at KJZZ from 2019 to 2020.