Project information

Never Forget

As one of the world’s most iconic species, Asian elephants inspire people to care about the living world. A deadly virus is killing young elephants, damaging conservation efforts and threatening the survival of this endangered species.
Never Forget will fight this virus and save young elephants.

January 2016 - December 2018

Charity information: Chester Zoo

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  • Need


    A deadly threat to young elephants has emerged. A disease that strikes so suddenly, that within a few short days of the appearance of symptoms the young elephant is dead. A virus so deadly that there is currently no known cure or vaccine. This killer disease is Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpes Virus (EEHV).

    The number of Asian elephants has halved in the last 75 years and successful breeding is crucial in protecting their future. But EEHV is bringing Asian elephants even closer to extinction.


    Research is the key to solving the problem of this complex virus. Never Forget will fund a research scientist dedicated to identifying effective treatments and ultimately find a vaccine to eradicate the disease.

    Our current research has successfully developed a blood test to determine if EEHV is present, but the virus must be grown in laboratory conditions before it is possible for scientists to move on.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Identify better treatments – and ultimately a vaccine – to protect young elephants from EEHV.


    » Appoint a post doctorate scientist dedicated to EEHV research.
    » Grow EEHV in labs (one of the issues holding up research).
    » Research the natural immunity that occurs in some elephant populations.
    » Take the lead in raising awareness of EEHV and tackle the stigma attached to openly discussing the virus.

    What success will look like

    Research scientist in position and working with our existing conservation scientist.
    A commitment to study EEHV for a minimum of two years.
    EEHV successfully cultivated in labs.

  • Impact


    Awareness of elephant conservation will increase, which will be demonstrated by the increase in supporters engaged with activities such as community fundraising.
    Breakthroughs against EEHV will be shared will the global conservation community working in zoos and in the wild. Today 80% of young elephants struck by EEHV will die; an increased survival rate will demonstrate the success of this long term change.


    There is a risk that we fail to reach our fundraising target. This is being mitigated by the implementation of a multi-faceted fundraising campaign, which reaches out to a range of audiences, including zoo visitors, members of the zoo (of which there are 85,000), existing donors, corporate partners, and the wider public. The Big Give Christmas Challenge will give the campaign a high profile push at a key period, just after the campaign has launched to major donors.


    We will update donors through a series of email newsletters, and also via our magazine, social media, and through on-site communication at the zoo. We’ll tell them about developments in the research work, and on our fundraising progress.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £100,000

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £60,000 Research scientist salary Chester Zoo Fellow Salary for 2 years
      £20,000 Consumables Consumables required by Chester Zoo Fellow
      £5,000 Travel Travel required by Chester Zoo Fellow
      £10,000 Field conservation researcher To support Chester Zoo Fellow
      £5,000 Leahurst lab work Required by Chester Zoo Fellow

    Current Funding / Pledges

    Source Amount
    Ampelos Trust £30,000 Guaranteed
    Public appeal £12,000 Guaranteed
  • Background


    Chester Zoo, a leading conservation and education charity, is home to a herd of Asian elephants, where two calves succumbed to the EEHV virus in 2015. The scientific research work will be carried out at Chester Zoo; the Animal and Plant Health Agency; Surrey University; and Leahurst School of Vet Science. We also work in Assam, India, with communities, to protect them and the elephants there from the impact of human-wildlife conflict:


    Endangered elephants worldwide in zoos and in the wild.
    Communities who rely on Asian elephants for conservation and tourism, particularly in areas that struggle with poverty such as Assam, India, where we work.
    Our 1.7 million visitors, including school and community groups, plus those who can see the elephants for free without entering the main zoo.
    Global conservation and science communities.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Chester Zoo is home to a team of specialists, from scientists to keepers and conservationists, working with elephants at Chester and in the wild. We work with elephant specialists across the world to share learning.
    As a visitor attraction we welcome 1.7m visitors a year. We’ve also been the focus of Channel 4’s series, Secret Life of the Zoo, where viewers watched as we lost our elephants Bala and Hari to the virus. Series 2 is now being filmed, allowing us to raise awareness of the virus.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Simon Dowell, DPhil, BSc(Hons): Science Director

    Responsible for developing & delivering our strategy for science, research & education. The link between the zoo and the scientists working on EEHV.

    Dr Sue Walker B.Sc M.Sc. Ph.D.: Head Of Applied Science

    Strategically drives forward Chester Zoo’s reputation as an effective and collaborative science organisation.