The Oregon Zoo elephant herd and care staff received an outpouring of support this weekend following the tragic loss of 6-year-old Lily to a sudden onset of endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV), a rapidly progressing and often fatal disease to which calves are particularly susceptible. Community members gathered in Forest Hall on Saturday and Sunday to share memories, leave flowers and offer condolences to Lily's caregivers. Some guests also visited Lily's elephant family, who are getting extra care and attention during this difficult time.
"Elephants have incredibly strong family bonds — and, being the youngest, Lily was always the center of attention," said Bob Lee, who oversees the zoo's elephant area. "This loss affects the entire herd, especially Lily's mom, Rose-Tu."
Under the circumstances, Lee said, the herd is doing well. Rose-Tu is eating, drinking and sleeping regularly, as are Lily's aunties, Shine and Chendra, her brother, Samudra, and Samson, the herd's newest member. But the healing process is going to take some time.
Rose-Tu was with Lily as she passed. Afterward, she and the other elephants spent time next to her, touching her with their trunks until they left the area on their own. Rose-Tu returned several times to visit Lily, and the following day, she wandered throughout Forest Hall, vocalizing loudly, with Shine at her side.
The sudden loss has been painful for Lily's human caregivers as well, many of whom had known her since her birth. Lee said staff are keeping busy caring for the herd and sharing photos and memories about the happy, spirited elephant.
"The kind words and support from the Oregon Zoo community have really helped," he said. "She touched the lives of so many."