Last week, I posted some great news for sort situ (in situ/ex situ) elephant conservation medicine (see link). The International Elephant Foundation (IEF) and other elephant experts and holding institutions celebrated the accomplishment of Alex Rines and Vinnie Christiano. The two best friends and students at Lindbergh Elementary in Kenmore, NY spearheaded an effort to raise $500 for elephant conservation. After contacting the IEF, Alex, Vinnie and their fellow students decided their contribution could do the most good by supporting research into Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV).
Aside from IEF, the following organizations and elephant holding facilities donated monies to more than match those funds raised by the two fifth graders:
Buffalo Zoological Gardens; Denver Zoological Gardens; San Antonio Zoological Gardens & Aquarium; Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium; Dickerson Park Zoo; Dallas Zoo; Riverbanks Zoo & Garden; Elephant Managers Association; & Ringling Bros & Barnum & Bailey
Together with Alex and Vinnie more than $6000.00 in donations were raised for EEHV research. The fifth graders of Lindbergh Elementary presented their donation via Skype to IEF board member Daryl Hoffman and his elephant staff of the Houston Zoo. During this Skype conference call the children were able to interact with elephant handlers, learn more about the cause that they are supporting and ask questions. In addition Donna Fernandes from the Buffalo Zoo was on hand to personally thank all of the students for their efforts.
Ringling Bros. was so impressed by not only what the students had done, but also by what they inspired others to do, that they have pledged to match the entire amount raised thereby doubling the total to more than $12,000.00. They have also invited Alex and Vinnie and their families to be attend as special guests when Ringling Bros. performs in nearby Rochester later this year.
A Feld Entertainment, Inc., spokesperson said, “Ringling Bros. has supported the efforts of the IEF and others to combat EEHV for years. Our family of Asian elephants has been touched by this deadly disease more than once. While, thankfully, both of our elephants survived, in most other cases the outcome has been tragic. EEHV is the single greatest threat to the survival of the highly endangered Asian elephant and we need to do everything we can to defeat it. When we heard about what Alex and Vinnie and their friends had done we were astounded and decided that we wanted to recognize and build on what they did. Hopefully our contribution will inspire others to give just like Alex and Vinnie and their friends have done.”
“When I heard what our friends at Ringling Bros. wanted to do I was so pleased, but not surprised since they already do so much for elephants and they understand what a grave threat EEHV presents.” said International Elephant Foundation (IEF) Executive Director Deborah Olson. “But I am especially pleased to see these students get the recognition they deserve for their efforts and for inspiring others to do the same. I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to what they have accomplished.”
The IEF and its member institutions will continue to seek to raise awareness of EEHV and to support the research that is crucial to defeating it as part of its mission to help elephants everywhere. To that end they hope to unveil a major fundraising program later this summer that will continue to build on the efforts these two very special young boys.
About Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV)
EEHV is an often fatal disease that usually infects baby elephants in zoos and in the wild. In zoo’s where the virus has been studied the most, this elephant-specific disease has a mortality rate estimated between 80 and 90% and has been the cause of death of approximately 25% of the Asian elephants born in North America since 1978. In North
America there are only 8 elephants known to have survived the disease. IEF, in partnership with Smithsonian Institution, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Cornell University, and Baylor College of Medicine, has been at the forefront of finding treatment and prevention measures to stop this lethal disease.
About the International Elephant Foundation
As a non-profit organization dedicated to elephant welfare, IEF solicits donations to fund worthy conservation and research projects worldwide. To learn more about IEF or to contribute to elephant conservation efforts, visit IEF’s website at www.elephantconservation.org. With minimal administrative costs, IEF is able to dedicate more than 90 percent of its budget directly toward elephant conservation programs worldwide.
About Feld Entertainment, Inc. and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
Feld Entertainment is the parent company of Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey®, Please visit www.elephantcenter.com to learn more.