Oregon Zoo's elephant 'Shine' will be treated for tuberculosis

Asian elephant Shine in the North Meadow habitat, part of Elephant Lands at the Oregon Zoo. © Oregon Zoo / photo by Michael Durham.

The Oregon Zoo's 34-year-old Asian Elephant Sung-Surin, more commonly called Shine, will begin undergoing treatment for tuberculosis.

The news was announced by the zoo Thursday. Shine has shown no signs of illness and is in good health but has tested positive for the disease. It's discouraging news for the zoo, which has battled TB since an outbreak in its elephants started in 2013.

"The first thing we had to do is take a deep breath," said Bob Lee, the zoo's elephant curator. "We've been dealing with this for a few years now and it had never impacted a member of the female herd."

Three bull elephants -- Packy, Tusko, and Rama -- had previously tested positive. Packy was euthanized back in February after veterinarians determined they could no longer treat his drug-resistant form of the disease. The zoo says Tusko and Rama were successfully treated, though both elephants were eventually euthanized due to complications from old leg injuries.

The zoo often tests its elephants for TB using trunk wash samples. Shine was the only elephant in the zoo's heard who tested positive this go-around.

“Getting these kinds of results early is critical for effective treatment,” said Dr. Tim Storms, the zoo’s lead veterinarian. “Shine has not shown any signs of illness, and with the proper medical care we’re optimistic that she never will. Our elephant-care team has great relationships with her, and that should be very helpful throughout the treatment process.”

Sung-Surin is Thai for 'sunshine' which has led to the Shine nickname.

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