The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is in mourning Saturday after the loss of a 13-year-old elephant, Beco.
Zoo officials say Beco died at 11 a.m. after a bout with elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus, a virus that affects elephants in zoos, in the wild and in sanctuaries.
“The loss of an animal is difficult, but the loss of a young elephant is especially devastating,” Columbus Zoo President and CEO Tom Schmid said in a statement. “We are extremely grateful for the support we have received from our colleagues at other zoos, and the condolences of our community, who mourn with us.”
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On Thursday morning, Beco’s caretakers noticed that he was not feeling well and contacted the zoo’s animal health team, who sent his blood to the National Elephant Herpesvirus Laboratory at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Zoo in Washington for testing. who confirmed that Beco had the virus.
His medical care included regular plasma, stem cell infusions and whole blood, according to the statement.
While zoo medical staff continue to monitor the other six elephants in the herd, there are no signs of the virus in these other six elephants.
According to the National Elephant Herpesvirus Laboratory, every elephant in the wild probably carries one or more forms of the virus with it since it is a natural disease.
“It is comforting to know that Beco’s legacy will live on in what we learn from this experience, which will ultimately help save the lives of other elephants,” said Dr. Jan Ramer, senior vice president of care and conservation of animals for the zoo. “We are grateful for the support of our zoo colleagues across the country and the kindness of our community. Together we mourn the loss of Beco and find strength in leaning on each other.”