The two youngest elephants at the Indianapolis Zoo died days apart, the zoo announced Tuesday.
“We are devastated to announce that a second African elephant in our herd, Kalina, died earlier today,” the zoo said in a statement. Kalina was 8-years-old.
The announcement came one week after the zoo said that 6-year-old African elephant Nyah died after “a short illness,” the zoo’s statement said.
Kalina showed similar symptoms to Nyah, and while the zoo is waiting on Nyah’s histopathology results, their statement said the elephant showed high levels of elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus, which can cause fatal hemorrhagic disease.
The zoo said there is no vaccine for the disease, which “can strike without warning” and is most commonly found in Asian elephants.
“Words cannot describe the emotional impact this is having on our Zoo family,” said Tuesday’s statement.
“I can’t imagine anything worse than what we’re dealing with right now,” Indianapolis Zoo President Dr. Rob Shumaker said later during a news conference, according to NBC affiliate WPTA.
A March 19 Indianapolis Zoo statement said the first elephant to die, Nyah, was “beautiful, fun and curious.”
“Nyah was born and raised at the Indianapolis Zoo and the staff who have cared for her are feeling her loss deeply,” the statement said. “We know that elephants grieve and each elephant in the herd was with Nyah after she died today to help them understand why she will not be with them anymore.”
Nyah’s mother, 37-year-old Ivory and sister, 13-year-old Zahara, are among six remaining African elephants at the Indianapolis Zoo. Kalina’s mother, 43-year-old Kubwa and brother, 14-year-old Kedar, are also at the zoo. The oldest African elephant residing at the zoo is 53-year-old Sophi.
Last year, a lioness at the Indianapolis Zoo killed the father of her three offspring by clenching her jaws around his neck and suffocating him. Experts said the behavior was extremely rare.