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Pittsburgh Zoo's elephant calf Tsuni dies at age 2

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CBS News Pittsburgh Live

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The Pittsburgh Zoo's beloved elephant calf Tsuni has died. 

The zoo announced 2-year-old Tsuni died on Thursday after a sudden and brief battle with elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus, which the zoo calls a "prevalent, challenging disease that has plagued elephants, both in human care and in the wild." Younger elephants are at the highest risk, with an 85% mortality rate. 

The zoo said Tsuni wasn't presenting visible clinical signs of EEHV and it was detected through routine blood testing on Feb. 8. "The effects of the virus progressed very quickly and, despite immediate treatment and support, she did not survive," the zoo said in a press release.  

(Photo: Paul Selvaggio)

"Tsuni held a special place in the hearts of staff and visitors alike," said Dr. Jeremy Goodman, the zoo's president and CEO. "Her loss is devastating to our entire zoo family. Her ability to fight through her early life medical challenges had been such an inspiration to everyone that worked with her. She will be terribly missed by everyone here as well as elephant lovers all over the world."   

Tsuni was born in 2021 and lived at the International Conservation Center in Somerset. The other elephants at the center have built up EEHV antibodies as they have aged, so the zoo says they are at low risk to the disease. 

Tsuni overcame several medical conditions in her first two months. Daryl Hoffman, the vice president of living collections, said calves are born with some maternal antibodies that decrease over the first couple years of their lives, and Tsuni's health problems may have impacted her antibodies, Hoffman said. 

Tsuni is being remembered as a "boisterous" elephant who loved to play in the water and graze in the center's large pasture with her mom and aunts. 

Tsuni takes a bath!

Tsuni is enjoying her bath at the International Conservation Center (in Somerset County)! She is now weighing in at 900 pounds.

Posted by Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium on Tuesday, May 16, 2023

"Tsuni could bring a smile to anyone's face," said Ayeshah Al-Humaidhi, the International Conservation Center's director. "She was spunky, curious, and always up to something. Extremely bright, she was a willing participant in her care, which spoke to the amazing bond she had with her keepers." 

The zoo lost another elephant calf in 2017. The calf, who was born prematurely, could never gain weight and was eventually euthanized. 

Tsuni is the fourth animal to die at the Pittsburgh Zoo in the past six months. Kovu the red panda died in July, Kit the lion died shortly after and Mrithi the gorilla died last month. 

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