Lifestyle & Human Interest

9-Year-Old Zoo Elephant Dies After Contracting 'Devastating' Viral Disease


On Wednesday, the Toledo Zoo made a heartbreaking announcement, informing fans and followers of their social media pages that one of their African Elephants, Lucas, had died.

Lucas, 9 years old, had contracted an elephant-specific virus known as elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus. Despite all the first-rate veterinary care and medication, experts were unable to save the elephant’s life.

President and CEO of Toledo Zoo, Jeff Sailer, shared a video breaking the sad news.

“I’m coming to you today with a very heavy heart,” he began. “Unfortunately, after days of heroic care, we have lost our beloved elephant Lucas to a devastating viral disease.”

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He made sure to mention that the virus could not be transmitted to humans and that their other two elephants should be fine. Lucas’s age was apparently a factor in his demise.

“In younger elephants like Lucas, it can be quite catastrophic,” Sailer said.

“Lucas meant so much to all of us,” Sailer continued. “I mean, he was named after the county in grateful recognition to the taxpayers here in Lucas County.

“This time, though dark, will be especially felt by those who have cared for him since the day he was born. Those same people worked with Lucas over all the years, providing the best of care and they were with him when he died.

“And I hope over time that Lucas will remain a bright memory to all of us of your Toledo Zoo,” Sailer said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease usually causes a fatal hemorrhage, and has afflicted young Asian elephants in the last 20 years.

Hundreds have commented to extend their condolences and reminisce on their experiences with the elephant. Many remembered when he’d been born and voting on his name.

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“We’ve been visiting Lucas since he was born,” one person wrote. “So sad to learn this. My condolences to the Toledo Zoo staff. Such a sad loss.”

“Your colleagues in the zoo community mourn with you,” another wrote. “My heart is with the animal care and veterinary teams. I know you did an amazing job and all that you could. This is such a devastating virus.

“I hope that one day we will find a way to prevent it. It’s through cases like this that we continue to learn in order to help elephants in the future.”

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