Weekly Feature

2011-06-15 / Editorial

Youth can make a difference in the world

Bee Editorial

When we think of Vinnie Christiano III and Alex Rine, two fifth grade students at Lindbergh Elementary School in the Town of Tonawanda, we are hopeful that the future existence of wildlife is in good hands.

These two students single-handedly led an effort to get the school’s fifth grade class as well as national organizations to donate money to a cause that they felt needed attention: research into elephant endotheliotropic herpes virus.

This virus causes fatal haemorrhagic disease, attacking blood vessels, heart and similar organs among Asian elephants and has become a very serious problem. This disease has a sudden acute onset and preferentially targets calves between the ages of one and eight years (with more than half of those between one and three years of age). The first case was identified in 1995 at the Washington Zoo and reported in Science in 1999 (the earliest confirmed case is from 1983), according to elephantscare.org.

The website also notes that nearly 60 cases of EEHV hemorrhagic disease have now been confirmed worldwide, with at least 15 also suspected in Asia. More than 85 percent of known cases have been fatal.

There have been 35 cases in North America and 21 in Europe, including nine animals that survived after treatment with an anti-herpesvirus drug administered very quickly after diagnosis. Although most cases have involved juvenile captive-born Asian elephants, only one was less than one year of age (not counting stillbirths), but several cases have involved older wild-born Asian adults and three were in African elephants.

Daryl Hoffman, former Buffalo Zoo employee, and his elephant staff of the Houston Zoo, said the biggest challenge is finding a cure is cost, so he was appreciative of the donation provided by Lindbergh Elementary.

The school earned $500 through hosting bake sales and collecting donations at concerts.

Vinnie and Alex should be commended for not only raising money for a good cause but for also taking the time to research the disease and also find out which organization — the International Elephant Foundation — commits itself to promoting conservation of elephants they could raise money for a cure. We hope to hear more great news from these two students in the future as they plan to expand their project to include a website where individuals can donate to their cause: “Pennies for Pachyderms.”

We hope that other students will follow suit, seeking new and fun ways to help others in the community and around the world.

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