Bala, an Asian elephant calf, grew rapidly ill and eventually died from elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus (or EEHV).
Other diseases, breeding, and a move to a new location can bring on the illness, while changes in the herd dynamic caused by pregnancy or introducing a new animal are also very stressful for elephants. Losing Bala has been devastating for the staff at Chester Zoo, as well as the remaining members of the herd. The decision about whether or not to continue breeding has been debated by the ethics committee at Chester Zoo, and is something Jordan feels strongly about.
Sign up to our newsletter to receive industry insights, news and listings as they are published. As well as introducing us to chimps who throw their weight (and worse) around, territorial meerkats and love-struck otters, the six- part series will exploit the powerful emotional pull that animals can have on us all. Eric causes a lot of trouble, winding the other chimps up, upsetting everybody when they’re trying to sleep. Robbie and Daisy are a lovely pair of otters — great parents, whose offspring are all over the world.

She is just the latest casualty of a deadly, mysterious disease that is killing Asian elephants in captivity. Dr Jonathan Cracknell, a leading world expert in the disease and the current director of animal operations at Longleat, likens it to herpes in humans. Which is followed by the temper tantrums of a toddler who has been usurped as the baby of the herd.
We have to keep the genepool fresh, so Robbie and Daisy have retired to a zoo up the road now. But the disease poses one of the biggest threats to Asian elephants in captivity, and has killed 11 in the UK since 1995. The symptoms develop fast, and include lethargy, a loss of appetite, a change in attitude, and a bruised tongue.
Asian elephants are an endangered species, and rely on the breeding programmes of zoos and research undertaken in captivity to keep the population viable.
Dylan’s our current dominant male — I sometimes think he ought to take Eric round the corner and give him a good thrashing!

With only 43 Asian elephants in British zoos at present, the disease is taking a huge toll.
When this stops, there is a period when their immune systems are still developing and more susceptible to disease. Bringing elephants in from the wild is deemed unethical, so breeding them in captivity is our only way to study the animals and try to ensure the species’s survival. With a gestation period of two years, elephant births are still relatively rare – and are cherished and celebrated, as we saw in the first episode of The Secret Life of the Zoo with the birth of Nandita.

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