This spring, the city's parks department began to detect something rotten in the state of the Koi Pond. In 2007, the pond bubbled with more than 50 flitting koi fish. Today, there are six.
So why are so many fishes sleeping with the fishes? The crisis flummoxed the amateur fish veterinarians at the Inland Empire Water Garden and Koi Society, so they mailed a koi to fish pathologists at Washington State University. The diagnosis? KHV, the dreaded Koi Herpes Virus.
An outbreak is serious. Parks operation manager Tony Madunich says the disease is incurable and, 90 percent of the time, fatal to koi unlucky enough to contract it. Colleen McCalip, Koi Society historian, says heat treatments can cause the virus to go dormant, but not cure it. The infected fish remain contagious.
According to the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at the University of Florida, the Koi Herpes Virus strain is a relative newcomer. It was first reported in 1998 and confirmed in Israel in 1999. In the last 10 years, however, the virus has swept through carp populations in Japan and Singapore, and to a lesser degree in Indonesia, India and the United States.
At Manito, even the six fish survivors won't escape death. "If the fish that are still remaining survive, they are still carriers of the disease," Madunich says. "We're assuming they're all infected. They will probably be euthanized."
From there, the park will drain the pond, replace the infected water and then add all new, disease-free-certified koi.
The parks department speculates the culprit stems from well-intentioned blunders of the ignorant -- like some kid who wants to give little Nemo a more luxurious home than the claustrophobic confines of a goldfish bowl. So he dumps his goldfish in the sparkling ponds of the Japanese Gardens, blissfully unaware that Nemo has herpes. (Goldfish often carry the disease, but are immune to its deadly effects.) "We want to really discourage the public from dropping off their goldfish or turtles in the pond," Madunich says. "It seems like a good place to put them, but it [leads to] unexpected consequences."