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Baby elephant brings joy and concern to Berlin zoo

An elephant at a zoo in Berlin has welcomed the birth of Anchai, the mother's fourth offspring. Anchai's three older siblings all died at an early age of a virus which experts say cannot be cured. TODAY.com's Richard Lui reports.

Polar bear Knut has passed away. Long live baby elephant Anchali.

This week, Berlin's zoo celebrated the birth of a 350-pound Asian elephant, born to her Thai mother Pang Pha and 18-year old "proud father" Victor. The young elephant was named Anchali, which means "greeting" in Thai.

The elephant calf has the potential to become the new celebrity at the Berlin zoo, which is located in the heart of the German capital and was the home of the late polar bear Knut, who became an international media star.

"During the first half of the day we keep Anchali inside with [its] mother, but in the afternoons [it] gets to go outside, where visitors can see [it] interact," Dr. Andreas Ochs, a veterinarian at the Berlin zoo, told NBC News.

Despite the joy shared by both zoo staff and visitors, there is also fear that Anchali's life could be cut short.

Anchali's siblings, all from different fathers, died young as a result of the highly fatal disease EEHV. The common elephant virus has already led to the death of three calves at the Berlin zoo.

The elephant endotheliootropic herpes virus, or EEHV, is seriously impacting Asian elephants in zoos across North America and Europe. The virus mainly strikes young Asian elephants and produces a hemorrhagic disease so lethal it has a higher than 90 percent mortality rate.

To date, scientists have not been able to find a cure or vaccine for the disease.


Experts say that adult elephants who contract the virus later in life are typically not affected, but that approximately 80 percent of infected young elephants up to the age of 8 die from the disease.

"We have the impression that the young elephant is doing really well. Despite being a heavy calf with its 352 pounds, it is very agile and alert," Ochs said.

"Anchali is strong, which makes us hopeful for the future," says Ochs.

The Berlin zoo -- Germany's oldest animal park founded in 1844 -- has been keeping only Asian elephants since 1996.

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