Asia and the Pacific are home to nearly half of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. Continued rapid economic development, agricultural expansion, mining, deforestation, urbanization, and illegal wildlife trade are only a few of the factors degrading this rich biological landscape. Another less-understood threat to local wildlife is disease. Due to increased human and domestic animal population pressures, like cattle and dogs, critically endangered species including tigers, Asian one-horned rhinos, snow leopards, Asian elephants, and giant pandas are at risk of contracting diseases that can threaten the survival of their species.
Young elephants throughout the world and particularly in Asia are at risk of contracting highly pathogenic diseases such as the Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpes Virus (EEHV), which is attributed to half the deaths of young captive Asian elephants throughout the world. Little is known about the impact of this devastating disease on the 15,000 captive elephants and 40,000 wild elephants in Asia where young calves are acutely at risk of sudden death. One of the major challenges to understanding the herpes virus in Asian elephants is the lack of systematic data collection across a large enough population size to understand and manage the impacts of this devastating disease.
Myanmar has the largest captive elephant population in the world, with 98 veterinarians caring for 6,000 elephants, and also maintains the largest repository of historical information about captive elephants in the world. This represents a vital resource for a better understanding of elephant demographics and management. VIEW has partnered with local and international partners to help solve the devastating impacts of disease on the wild and captive populations of elephants. By utilizing WHIS, VIEW is implementing the first digital disease surveillance system to systematically advance the health of Asian elephants in Myanmar. VIEW has translated our WHIS platform into Burmese so that the people that care for elephants can easily assess health trends in their elephant populations and collect vital data specific to herpesvirus. Myanmar has the largest historical information about captive elephants in the world. And WHIS has customized the platform so that health information can be inputted into WHIS for analysis and reporting.
Our goal in 2022 with WHIS has been to input this information into WHIS and develop a tailored made App that can be used on basic smartphones. With the implementation of the WHIS program, Myanmar will reap valuable benefits beyond investigating the herpes virus that will enable general health surveillance and tracking for all elephants.
Watch Dr. Evans and her work with gorillas HERE on 60 Minutes!