Asian Elephant Veterinary Care Program

Location: Surin, Thailand

Once used in warfare and the logging industry, the Asian elephant remains central to the cultural and religious identity of Thailand. A little over a century ago, there were over 100,000. Today, they are endangered; their estimated number is between 3,500 to 5,000. Ivory poaching, illegal logging, and loss of habitat threaten their survival.

Surin, is an elephant kingdom in Northeastern Thailand, designated by His Majesty the King, to allow elephants to live in more natural settings with access to forests and a balanced diet. Up until a few years ago, elephants were forced to beg in the streets of Bangkok where their welfare was severely compromised. Surin was created for these elephants to live in harmony with their mahouts and families through a government sponsored program.  The Zoological Parks Organization looks after 200 elephants but currently only has the capacity to conduct health checks twice a year.

Our Goals

Our goal is to improve the welfare and living conditions of captive Asian elephants as well as the community’s livestock and companion animals through our veterinary care program.

The Project

Mobile elephant clinics will enable elephants to receive year-round vet care ensuring better health and welfare.

Veterinarians International has partnered with the Zoological Parks Organization (ZPO) to create two mobile elephant clinics(MEC) for the 200 elephants in Surin province. Click here to learn more about how you can help get important veterinary care to elephants in need.

Baby Asian Elephant Veterinary Care Program

Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV) can cause rapidly fatal hemorrhagic disease in juvenile Asian elephants. To date, this virus is the most concerning infectious disease in captive elephants.

Among 180 elephants of Surin Elephant Kingdom under the VI-ZPO Asian Elephant Veterinary Care Program, there are approximately 75 juvenile elephants between 1 to 15 years of age that are at risk of EEHV infection.

The EEHV routine monitoring program in captive Surin elephants will be divided into 4 age groups with blood sample collection in each group to be collected at different frequencies (Table 1.). EEHV genotype 1, 3 and 4 will be detected by Real-time PCR technique. The monitoring program can rapidly detect an EEHV infection in an elephant without clinical signs leading to effective treatment and a high recovery rate.

Our partners collaborate with the Veterinary Research and Development Center in  Surin in order to provide Real-time PCR diagnostic services. The cost of EEHV monitoring has been estimated to be 35 USD per sample. Detailed sample collection and cost of EEHV monitoring are shown in Table 1.

Table1. Sample collection and cost for EEHV monitoring by Real-time PCR for elephants of different age groups of Surin Elephant Kingdom under ZPO

Number of elephants Frequency of
sample collection
Samples/year Cost
(35 USD/ sample)
1-3 25 weekly 25×52 = 1,300

45,500 USD

(1,820 USD/elephant)

3-8 20 every 2 weeks 20×26 = 520

18,200 USD

(910 USD/elephant)

8-15 30 monthly 30×12 = 360

12,600 USD

(420 USD/elephant)

>16 115 annually 115×1=115

4,025 USD

(35 USD/elephant)

Total 180   2,295 80,325 USD


Besides the EEHV monitoring, the immediate treatment of EEHV infection is very important because EEHV can cause rapid death in elephant calves. The antiviral drugs should be stocked for prompt treatment after detection of an EEHV positive case. However, active EEHV infection is rare so we plan to stock the drug for one case. When the drugs are used, the stock will be replenished. The detail of drugs dosage and cost for EEHV treatment per case are shown in Table 2.

Table 2. The detail of drugs dosage and cost for EEHV treatment per case

Antiviral drug Cost/box (bottle) Number of boxes (bottles)/case Cost
Acyclovir injection 10 USD 10 100   USD
Famcyclovir tablet 80 USD 12 9,600 USD
Acyclovir tablet 10 USD 85 8,500 USD
Total 18,200 USD


Table 3. The total cost of EEHV monitoring and treatment program per year

Program Cost/year
Monitoring program 80,325 USD
Treatment program 18,200 USD
Total 98,525 USD

This budget can be broken up as follows:

  1. Program by month: $8210
  2. 3 months: $24, 631
  3. 6 months: $49,262.50

Every dollar makes a difference! Please donate now and save baby elephants!