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A r-ele big achievement for Team TZ!

Animal Achievement Award

September 2018
Winner: Esha & Noorjahan, Asian elephants
Nominated by: Phillipa Dobbs, Veterinary Associate at Twycross Zoo
For: Blood testing and the first plasma collection from the back leg of an elephant in a protected contact environment in a UK zoo

A r-ele big achievement for Team TZ!

Noorjahan arrived from West Bengal in 1998 and has lived at Twycross Zoo ever since. She gave birth to Esha on 4th March 2014.

In January and March 2018, Minbu and Tara packed up their trunks and moved from Twycross to Blackpool Zoo to form a new breeding herd. It was planned that Noorjahan and Esha would join them shortly afterwards however Esha had grown too big to fit in the transport crate with Noorjahan, and therefore needed extra training from her keepers to travel in her own crate.

4 year old Esha is in the high-risk category for contracting elephant herpesvirus. This virus tends to affect calves 1-7years old and can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated quickly. A test run by a lab in Surrey allows a drop of blood to be tested for the presence of the virus to allow early detection. Esha has been trained for this blood test since she was 2 years old which involves using a needle to prick the ear to obtain a drop of blood – much like how a diabetic checks their glucose from their finger. A better test is to be able to collect 1ml of blood to allow further testing. In the lead up to the move day Esha’s daily training was increased to allow further blood testing.  She was trained to present her back leg so blood could be taken from a vein running along the inside of her leg. She allowed us to collect blood numerous times from this vein prior to the move day to ensure she was healthy and fit for travel.

A big part of treatment for elephant herpesvirus is plasma taken from a compatible herd member and given to the sick calf when needed. A blood cross match test was performed between Esha and Noorjahan and Noorjahan was shown to be a suitable match. In order to obtain enough plasma Noorjahan also needed to be trained to allow blood to be taken from the back leg. The elephant team trained her within two weeks and soon after the first plasma collection was taken. In the lead up to the move five plasma collections were taken successfully from Noorjahan. This plasma is stored in a -80 freezer for 5 years to be used if Esha was to unfortunately become sick. To our knowledge this is the first plasma collection from the back leg of an elephant in a protected contact environment in a UK zoo! A big achievement for everyone involved.

On 29th August 2018 Noorjahan and Esha entered their transport crates after months of training and were safely moved to Blackpool Zoo where they were reunited with Minbu and Tara.

Both the blood sampling and whole move could not have happened without the hard work and dedication from the keepers at Twycross and Blackpool Zoo. All the blood sampling training carried out at Twycross can be used at Blackpool to continue to monitor Esha’s health. If you would like to hear more about the veterinary work at Twycross Zoo and the elephant move come along to the conservation talk on Tuesday 13th November 2018. Read more.

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