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Friends Of The Rosamond Gifford Zoo At Burnet Park Inc

Ajay and Batu Memorial Fund to Benefit the RGZ Animal Health Center

After the devastating loss of our young Asian elephant calves, Ajay and Batu, to EEHV, we received hundreds of heartfelt condolences as well as messages asking for ways to honor them. In response, we have created the Ajay and Batu Memorial Fund.
raised of US$125,000 target
by 256 supporters
RCN 237083532

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Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpes Virus (EEHV) is the most devastating viral disease in elephants worldwide, both in the wild and in human care. It is the biggest killer of young Asian elephants and can cause death within 24 hours in those under age 8.

EEHV was discovered by the Smithsonian National Zoo Conservation Biology Institute in 1995 after the National Zoo lost a 16-month-old elephant calf to the disease. The Smithsonian established the National Elephant Herpesvirus Laboratory as a result, and the Rosamond Gifford Zoo is a member institution that sends blood draws from its elephants to the lab twice weekly to monitor for the disease. EEHV is believed to be naturally occurring among elephants in a dormant form that can become active without warning.


The week of December 7 was one of heartbreak -- no one anticipated the tragic loss of two of our most beloved young ambassadors to their species. Elephant calves Ajay and Batu became untimely victims of this deadly and unpredictable virus. While Batu was in treatment since Thursday, December 3, Ajay had shown no indication of the virus until shortly before he passed away suddenly on Tuesday, December 8. An outpouring of grief, sympathy and support from the public as well as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) community helped the team stay focused on trying to save Batu. Sadly, he succumbed to the virus three days later,

Batu was the first calf born to mother elephant Mali and bull elephant Doc, on May 12, 2015. He grew into a delightful addition to the herd who loved training sessions with his keepers. He was always the first elephant in the pool in warm weather and he had a mischievous streak, often trying to nudge himself between the adult females and their food.

When Ajay was born on January 15, 2019, he was very precocious from the start, surpassing every milestone of development and training. Batu took an immediate interest in him and the pair became almost inseparable. The sight of the two brothers playing, wrestling or splashing in the pool together was an adorable highlight for many zoo visitors.

Despite our crushing losses, the zoo is now focused on caring for its six adult elephants and continuing its mission to serve as one of the nation's top elephant programs. Everything that AZA zoos learn from working with Asian elephants can be applied to help the wild population, including research on EEHV. The Rosamond Gifford Zoo is more dedicated than ever to continuing its research on behalf of Asian elephants.

What can be done to ensure this doesn't happen again?

On the global front, the zoo will continue to support EEHV research by sending data and samples to the Smithsonian EEHV lab and contributing financially to efforts to develop a vaccine to protect elephants from this deadly disease.. The Friends of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo has just pledged $2,500 to the National EEHV Lab in Ajay and Batu's names.

Locally, it would be helpful to have EEHV diagnostic and treatment equipment on-site at the zoo.

Before this happened, we already planned to outfit the new Animal Health Center now under construction at the zoo with $1.1 million in state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment equipment, including a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) machine to test blood for EEHV, a centrifuge for extracting plasma for treatment and refrigerator units for blood and plasma storage. The cost to purchase this equipment and train our staff on it is in the range of $125,000.

In response to the tremendous outpouring from the community asking how to help, the Friends of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo established the Ajay and Batu Memorial Fund to purchase this critical equipment and honor our beloved elephant calves.

We hope that you will consider a donation of any amount to assist with this very important goal. And, we thank you for your love and support!

About the charity

The Friends organization exists to provide financial support to the zoo through funds dedicated to the welfare of our animals, our educational programs and our family-friendly facilities.

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