9-year-old Lucas died after succumbing to elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV), which Ohio's Toledo Zoo called a "devastating" disease
Lucas the Elephant
Lucas the elephant
| Credit: The Toledo Zoo/Facebook

The Toledo Zoo is mourning the loss of a "beloved" young African elephant.

On Wednesday, the Ohio-based zoo announced that Lucas, a 9-year-old African elephant, had died after contracting a "devastating" viral disease called elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV).

"I'm coming to you today with a very heavy heart," Jeff Sailer, President/CEO of the zoo, said in a video shared on the Toldeo zoo's social media accounts. "Unfortunately, after days of heroic care, we have lost our beloved elephant Lucas."

Sailer explained that EEHV is an elephant-specific virus that poses no threat to humans. The virus, based on the zoo's scientific knowledge, should also not be a threat to the zoo's two other elephants, Jiggy and Renee.

"In younger elephants like Lucas, it can be quite catastrophic," Sailer said of EEHV.

Sailer also explained in the video message that Lucas, born on June 3, 2011, died after "heroic efforts" from the zoo's staff and veterinarians.

"Lucas meant so much to all of us," Sailer said. "He was named after the county in grateful recognition to the taxpayers here in Lucas County. This time, though dark, will be especially felt by those who have cared for him since he was born. Those same people worked with Lucas over all the years, providing the best of care and they were with him when he died."

"I hope over time," Sailer added, "Lucas will remain a bright light over all of us at Toledo Zoo."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, EEHV has afflicted young Asian elephants over the past 20 years. The virus typically causes a fatal hemorrhage.

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The Toledo Zoo, which opened in 1900, is home to over 10,000 animals from more than 720 species.