02 July 2019

One of our amazing elephant keepers has taken on a year of challenges to raise money for our Never Forget campaign.

24 October 2018

Three-year-old Nandita Hi Way and 18-month-old Aayu Hi Way – two much loved members of the zoo’s close-knit family herd of rare Asian elephants – both tested positive for the fast acting Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) on Monday 22 October.

EEHV is known to be present in almost all Asian elephants, both in the wild and in zoos across the globe, but only develops into an illness in some elephants and when it does it is almost always fatal.

Dedicated elephant keepers at the zoo detected signs of the virus in Aayu and Nandita early and, utilising state-of-the-art technology in the zoo’s on-site science lab, were able to confirm the presence of EEHV at the earliest possible moment and immediately begin treatment.

A team of expert scientists, conservationists, keepers and vets are working around-the-clock to administer anti-viral drugs to help the young elephants to fight the illness. The team have also performed ground-breaking elephant blood transfusion procedures to help their immune systems fight back.

Mike Jordan, the zoo’s Director of Animals, said:

EEHV is an incredibly complex disease. It affects the membranes in elephants, so it occurs in their saliva in their mouth, in their trunk and in their gut. The virus attacks those membranes and causes a haemorrhagic fever and intense bleeding very, very rapidly.

Aayu and his half-sister Nandita are wonderful, charismatic little calves and to lose them to this horrible disease would be devastating. Our teams have acted fast and we’re doing everything we possibly can to help them fight it off.

Despite the ongoing and extensive efforts, staff at the zoo have warned that there are no guarantees of either calf’s survival.

Relatively little is known about EEHV. As well as those recorded in zoos, conservationists have discovered fatalities in at least seven countries across the Asian elephant range in the wild – India, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia (Sumatra) and Myanmar.

Currently there is no vaccination against it but researchers are working to create a treatment that trains an elephant’s immune system in what to look for.

Chester Zoo scientists – backed by more than £220,000 of public donations, a major partnership with The University of Surrey, and an international collaboration of conservationists, have made real progress in the fight to find a cure – but sadly the battle is ongoing.

Scientists from Chester Zoo are at the forefront of this major international effort, which is critical if conservationists are to protect both wild and zoo elephant herds globally from the virus. If you would like to find out more information about EEHV, please read our frequently asked questions.

08 September 2017
Challenge: Katie Morrison Loch Ness Marathon for Never Forget

What are you fundraising for?

I’m running the marathon to raise money for our Never Forget campaign to fight EEHV.

EEHV is a devastating virus that kills young elephants both in the wild and in zoos. Unfortunately five calves born at Chester Zoo have died from the virus.  We currently have three young elephants within the herd so EEHV is never far from the elephant team’s thoughts.

We are doing what we can with the knowledge we already have but more research is required to improve our understanding of the virus and how best to treat it.

Why did you choose to do a marathon?

This will be my second marathon, I ran my first in 2015. Thought it was about time I conquered another one as I enjoy challenging myself.

Why Loch Ness?

I’m originally from Glasgow so have been keen to complete a Scottish race. I chose Loch Ness because I thought the gorgeous scenery would be a welcome distraction when fatigue starts to set in.

How has the training been going?

In July I completed my first sprint triathlon so my training has involved not only running but also swimming and cycling. Now my focus is to gradually increase my mileage up until race day.

At times it has been difficult keeping to my training routine but running in aid of such an important cause has kept me motivated.

We will Never Forget

Update

She did it! Katie conquered this monster marathon!

She faced terrible weather and a very tough race, but she made it to the finish line and raised over £400. Well done Katie!

Thank you everyone for your support.

Challenge: Katie Morrison Loch Ness Marathon 24.09.17 Never Forget

11 August 2017

There are likely to be more people watching your nearest Premier League football match this weekend than there are elephants left in the wild. This magnificent species is threatened by habitat loss, poaching, disease and direct conflict with humans. We are working in India to protect the species from human-wildlife conflict, while closer to home we are part of a breeding programme focused on sustaining an insurance population.

Richard Fraser, elephant keeper

Meet Richard Fraser, elephant keeper at Chester Zoo

Our elephant herd here at the zoo are a close knit family. This is backed by scientific research which has shown that social bonds between individual elephants has a big influence on cohesion in the whole group and consequently the health and well-being of the herd. Richard Fraser, elephant assistant team manager, spends his working day with seven staff and eight elephants. Here, he explains why he loves his job…

Asian elephants at Chester Zoo

A tropical start to the chilliest morning…

“One of the many good things about working on the elephant section is the heat. Our elephant house stays at around 20 degrees which means it’s warm all year round and when you travel to work in the middle of the cold British winter, there’s nothing better than coming into a toasty habitat.  The day starts with the team getting together to discuss plans for the day ahead.

The morning is the best part of the day

“I have to say one of the best parts of the day for me is first thing in the morning when we check the herd.  We never enter the elephants’ habitat, so there is always a barrier between our team and the animals. Yet we still have to make sure they are fit and well. It is important that we build strong bonds with the elephants so that they respond well and allow us to carry out vital health checks. We train our elephants as early as possible because you never know when you’ll need urgent medical access.  With new elephant calves we get them used to the keepers being around and coming into our husbandry areas.

“We have a special extended area to the main husbandry pen just for calves, which gives us better access to them while mum remains near-by watching what we’re up to.  If necessary we can take blood samples and administer drugs in a calm and cooperative manner that both mum and calf are comfortable with. When the calves are about 6 months old we take weekly blood swabs from the ear to check for any presence of Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV). This deadly virus affects young elephants and is a major threat to their future survival in the wild and in zoos. It typically strikes around weening age and is very fast acting.  As there is currently no vaccine for the virus we do weekly blood tests so that if the virus is found we can begin anti-viral treatment. Meanwhile our scientists are fighting against the clock to develop a cure which could protect the species globally.

Asian elephants at Chester Zoo

Poo glorious poo

“If you’re a zookeeper then poo is a big part of your life, you’re immune to the smell and it’s normal to talk about it over lunch.  Once we have completed the daily health check then it is time to clean out.  While our elephants are outside we clean the indoor habitat and while they are inside we clean their large outdoor paddock. Our work is not completely about poo though! We also spend time forming sand mounds, creating bark piles and digging out mud wallows to provide an interactive environment for our herd.  A big part of our job is to come up with new and innovative ways of keeping the elephants busy while at the same time encouraging natural behaviours, and it’s a task I relish.  All the more so as it usually involves us spending time driving around on the section tractor and excavator before watching the elephants explore what we’ve created.

I love Asian elephants and enjoy working with them every day. Working here means I play a vital role in conserving this beautiful species. As well as working with the herd in the zoo we also work in India trying to protect the species in the wild.

Rich Fraser, elephant keeper

Most memorable moment

“One of the major threats to the future of Asian elephants are the encounters between human and elephant populations. The forests of Assam in North East India provide one the last strongholds for the Asian elephant but these forests have some of the highest levels of human-elephant conflict in the world. Activities such as deforestation are bringing elephants closer to humans so they often end up travelling through villages, destroying homes and crops.  We are working with the local communities to develop ways for them to live safely alongside wild elephants, while being able support themselves and their families.

Richard Fraser in Assam

Richard Fraser working with project team in Assam, India

“We formed the Assam Haathi Project with our partner organisation Ecosystems-India over 12 years ago. The project works with more than 24 villages in the Sonitpur and Goalpara districts of Assam in India, working within the communities to create deterrent measures for the elephants such as electric fences, spotlights and chilli smoke, but also working with the local people to improve livelihoods. I was lucky enough to travel there in 2014 and get first-hand experience of the problems people are facing. It is critically important that our hands on experience with the species here is used to the combat the problems faced in the wild. The dedication shown by the conservation team out in India as well as the enthusiasm and gratitude from the local people has shown me how, with a little extra help, a huge difference can be made to so many lives. In turn this is then helping to conserve the remaining populations of elephants that are found in areas such as Assam.

Asian elephant in Assam, India

Finding out more about this endearing species

“One of the highlights of my week is watching our elephant herd sleep. We’ve been observing the social affiliations of our herd for two years now to give us an insight into our elephant’s psychology. We do this by observing the herd during the night, giving us a unique insight into how they react without us around.  Using a camera system that is already installed around the house, a member of our team watches the sleeping patterns of the herd over a 12 hour period from 7pm to 7am, twice a week.

“We hope our work monitoring their social affiliations will develop and grow.  We are at the forefront of elephant wellbeing and the work we are doing here will enable us to gain a deeper understanding of this truly fascinating species.

“Right now, Asian elephants are under threat but we won’t stand back. Conservation is critical, in zoos and the wild. It’s time to Act for Wildlife.”

11 August 2017
Stephen Hatton Bike Chester 2017

Chester Zoo member and volunteer, Stephen Hatton, cycled for wildlife to raise funds to research a deadly virus that affects young elephants globally.

What made you sign up to cycle for wildlife?

Hari the Asian elephant calf was my main inspiration. Since Hari was taken from us by the disease EEHV, I have been looking for a way to support the zoo’s Never Forget campaign to fight the virus.

I had always enjoyed cycling in the past and I knew it would be a challenge to get back on my bike again. Training for an event for the zoo gave me the focus and motivation to do it.

How did it feel crossing the finish line?

I was so relieved to have not fallen off my bike! It was pretty windy and by the end I’d cycled even further than planned. People think of Cheshire as flat, but there are definitely hills out there. In fact there was about 1400ft of climbing overall!

What did you enjoy the most about the event?

The sense of achievement was fantastic. And the fact that all the planning was taken care of! I didn’t have to check a map or a GPS; I could just focus on the cycling.

What’s next?

I am looking forward to learning more about the illegal wildlife trade at ‘Trade Off’, the annual conservation symposium. Like the elephant virus EEHV, the illegal wildlife trade is a global issue where we can all do something to make a difference.

Thank you to Stephen and everyone who has joined the fight against EEHV

We will Never Forget

01 February 2017

Saving the northern bald ibis from extinction

During the summer of 2016 we were delighted to breed seven bald ibis chicks. A critically endangered species, the northern bald ibis is part of a European breeding programme led by zoos. With an estimated 115 pairs of birds left in the wild the northern bald ibis is on the brink of extinction. This is the second breeding success for our bird keeping team. The first of the chicks bred here were released to the wild in February and the latest will be released early next year. We’re hoping that by introducing these birds to a protected site in Southern Spain we’ll take big step forward in reversing the decline of the species.

Northern bald ibis chick

Saving turtles with your support

You’ll remember our recent appeal to help our partners at the Katala Foundation project in the Philippines after they confiscated over 3,500 live Palawan forest turtles. The future looked bleak for the turtles that had fallen victim to the illegal wildlife trade and were destined to be sold in China. We’re delighted to report that thanks to your support and the hard work of the team working on the ground at the Katala Foundation, 89% of the turtles were saved and have now been reintroduced in to the wild. Thank you!


Read more about the appeal here arrow

Confiscated turtles - saved from illegal wildlife trade

Proud of our volunteers making Wildlife Connections

All year we’ve been focused on giving people across the UK the skills that they need to deliver real conservation in their own back yards. We’ve trained 57 wildlife champions to go out, create wildlife friendly habitats and to train their local community to do the same. Plus, we’ve had hundreds more people sign up and download our ‘how-to’ guides to create their own Wildlife Connections.  It’s not too late to sign up for a ‘UK wildlife friendly’ start to 2017. Why not make it your New Year’s resolution?

We Will Never Forget

This year we launched our ‘We Will Never Forget’ campaign to raise funds to support research in to the deadly EEHV virus which threatens young elephants in zoos and all over the world. For us, this was personal after we lost elephants to the virus. We’ve been overwhelmed by your support; to date we’ve raised £100,000 which has funded a post-doc research position dedicated to finding a cure the virus. Please help us to keep this vital research going and enable us to carry out more research in the wild by making a donation.


Make a donation today arrow

Two Asian elephant calves

Find out more about how our community of committed experts and enthusiasts are making a real difference to conservation by signing up for our e-newsletter or following us on social media.

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31 January 2017

Nigel is a challenge champion!

Nigel is running 100 miles to raise funds for our research into a virus called EEHV that strikes both elephants in the wild and in zoos.

When Nigel Wood heard about a terrible virus that affects elephants, he wanted to take direct action and fundraise to support our research to find a vaccine.

Nigel felt compelled to do what he could to combat Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV) – a disease that affects elephants globally.  After first completing a 44km trail run and raising over £1,000 to fight EEHV, Nigel is now getting ready to run an incredible 100 miles!

Cheshire-based Nigel has been training on the Sandstone Ridge which is ideal terrain for what lies ahead.  Of his forthcoming challenge he said: “Kate and I have seen the devastating effects of the virus so wanted to do our bit to make a difference.  The Addo Elephant Run is a legendary South African event.  I know it’s going to be super tough in the searing heat but the National Park is so beautiful, it really is a unique and special place to run through. Training is going well and with not long to go, I feel I’m ready to take on this mammoth task.”

Chester Zoo’s fundraising coordinator Hannah Taylor said: “We are always in awe of people who go to extreme lengths in support of our vital work.  What Nigel is taking on is a gruelling challenge in very difficult conditions.  We wish Nigel the best of luck and hope that others will be inspired to help combat this terrible elephant disease.”

24 August 2016

Your fantastic support has been flooding in – and for that we’re extremely grateful, we couldn’t do it without you! Take a look at what can be achieved when we act for elephants below, here are just a few of our amazing supporters:

Nigel Wood took on an ultra-challenge and ran the Addo Elephant Run in South Africa and raised £1,031

Gail Kirkpatrick raised £142 by running the Chester Half Marathon. Gail was moved to run for elephants after hearing that two-year-old elephant calves Bala and Hari were killed by EEHV. She told us:

“I have many happy childhood memories of Chester Zoo, I have been a member for the last five years and am making memories with my own young children.  One of their favourite animals and a must-see on every visit is the elephants. Unfortunately Chester Zoo have lost two baby elephants in recent months to this devastating and little known disease. Elephants, like humans, live in family groups and grieve as we do.  As a mum I cannot begin to understand how they have dealt with the loss of their little ones.”

tiger-giraffe-and-ele-bikers-small

Over 200 bikers took part in the Chester Rideouts charity ride and donated an amazing £739.

Year 5 students at Hawarden Village Church School put on an assembly and a cake stall to raise £60. After baking for elephants, Year 5 students explained:

“We decided to help the elephants by holding a cake sale. The whole school turned up and the cakes sold out in minutes, everyone was really keen to help the elephants. We were really pleased!”

Chester Zoo volunteers Candice Booth, Jacqui Griffin and Pauline Lowrie organised an ele-fantastic event and raised over £4,400!

2MD at Town Lane Infant School raised £35 after learning about elephants with their teacher Mrs Macaskill

With the support of our incredible volunteers and our wonderful hosts, by bouncing on the bouncy castle, playing the tombola and having your faces painted, you helped raise £320!

Over 850 of you have already given generously and raised funds, bringing the total raised to over £20,000! Every penny will fund vital research into treatments for EEHV. We want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who’s already joined the fight against this terrible virus. There’s still a long way to go before we see the end of EEHV and your efforts have been a truly inspirational start to this campaign.

Fancy getting involved and organising your own fundraising activity? Then sign up to Never Forget here and we’ll support you all the way!

12 August 2016

Happy World Elephant Day! Today we’re celebrating all things to do with this amazing animal.

Chester Zoo not only works to protect Asian elephants in the wild through our Assam Haathi Project, but we’re also raising awareness and vital funds to carry out scientific research in the hope to find a solution to a deadly disease affecting young elephants.

Read more about our We Will Never Forget campaign here.

 

On top of this we’re also working in collaboration with academic partners, supervising PhD students with their research on a range of topics. One of our Chester Zoo conservation scholars, Rutendo Wazara, has been studying the social wellbeing of our herd of Asian elephants, below she tells us more:

“When people think about elephants, two things usually come to mind – their great memory and their strong family bonds. In the wild, both Asian and African elephants live in distinct social groups. Whilst the males leave their family herds when they reach puberty, female elephants will stay together in family groups for the length of their lives.

“Elephant family groups are made of mothers, calves, sisters, aunts and grandmothers; and because of this the females develop strong bonds with one another. Elephants are one of the few species that learn life skills from watching each other, making and having strong bonds with family members important. In these family groups, females help each other care for and protect their calves, learn how to become good mothers, develop good social skills and share food and water resources.

 

“Just like their cousins in the wild, elephants in zoos also make strong bonds with the elephants they are housed with. Elephants in zoos also rely on stable social groups to develop healthy behaviour, and so it is important that they are housed in multigenerational groups. However, the zoo environment poses a unique challenge because sometimes institutions are unable to house big family groups due to space restrictions, or elephants are housed with individuals to whom they are not related. And elephant social behaviour can be sensitive to these management practices – even if there are practices that improve their wellbeing. This is where my research comes in!

“The aim of my research is develop a tool that measures the strength of the bonds found between elephants. Knowing how strong the bond is between two elephants will help the zoo know which elephants spend the most time together; whether relatives or non-relatives share the strongest bonds; and how stable established bonds can be over a long period of time. My research will also explore the impact that social behaviour has on an elephants’ overall health including changes in hormone levels and reproductive health.

“Currently, I am working on determining if elephant bonds are stable over a twenty-four-hour period. The purpose of this is to determine if the data Chester Zoo’s elephant keeping team has been collecting for the past few years on the sleeping behaviour of the elephant herd can be used to measure the strength of the bonds between the elephants. So whilst the keepers have been studying which animals prefer sleeping together, I have been collecting data on which animals prefer to spend their days outside near each other.

 

“Our next step will be to calculate measurements for the elephants’ daytime bonds and night time bonds, and see if the values are different or equal. If the values are different, it means that elephants have partners they prefer to spend time with during the day, and partners they prefer to sleep with at night. But if the bond strengths are equal, it will mean that elephants will spend all their time – both day and night – with the same individuals. This result will be important because the keeping team observes the elephants’ night time behaviour in order to monitor the social dynamics of the herd, (read more about this work here) and so this part of my research will help keepers decide if collecting data only at night gives a full picture of the social bonds that exist in the herd.

“After we determine the relationship between the day time and night time social dynamics of the herd, I will continue to monitor the stability of the herd, but also look at how major life events affect the herd. My hope is that overall, the research I do with Chester Zoo will give the zoo a simple but practical way of monitoring the bonds within their elephant herd, which will help them create a suitable social environment where elephants can have healthy development.”

Discover more about this beautiful species and the work we’re doing to ensure its survival.