Partnership between zoo, blood center to help elephants

In a joint effort to treat elephants who are ill with a deadly virus, the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center is working together with the Houston Zoo and donating vital equipment to be used exclusively by the zoo medical team.

The blood center is providing a centrifuge its headquarters in southeast Houston with access granted to several designated zoo employees 24 hours a day seven days a week. The zoo veterinarians and techs will use the centrifuge to separate elephant blood components used to treat elephants suffering from Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV). The common virus is found in all elephants and can also cause rapid, fatal disease in young calves.

As a result of research conducted by the Houston Zoo and Baylor College of Medicine, the zoo has developed a monitoring and treatment protocol that resulted in several of its young elephants successfully surviving clinical disease since 2014. Quick access to healthy elephant plasma for transfusions for ill calves is important to the treatment protocol. Adult elephants at the Houston Zoo are trained to allow collection of blood for plasma donation. With access to this centrifuge, the designated zoo representatives will not only be able to spin blood for use quickly in the case of a sick elephant, but will also accumulate supply of blood for use in future emergency situations.