A zoo in Poland plans to start giving medical marijuana to its elephants in a bid to help reduce their stress levels.
Warsaw Zoo will administer liquid does of CBD oil to three African elephants, directly into their mouths or via their food, to see if it has the same relaxing effects reported by human use.
The cannabinoid has previously been used to successfully treat dogs and horses in other parts of the world, however, Dr Agnieszka Czujkowska, who is heading up the project, believes that it could be the ‘first initiative of its kind for elephants.’
‘We are planning to give them the CBD and measure the cortisol again. This is the experiment. Then we know for sure [the oil] is working or not,’ she told BBC News.
The CBD oil is derived from a cannabis plant, but it doesn’t create the ‘high’ euphoric effect caused by smoking or ingesting the plant. Dr Czujkowska added that the oil will not have any harmful side effects on the animals’ liver or kidneys, either.
‘It’s not very potent. The only side effect will be some behavioural changes. We will have to manage these to achieve the results we want,’ she explained.
‘It’s an attempt to find a new natural alternative to the existing methods of combating stress, especially pharmaceutical drugs.’
The African elephants have been struggling with stress since March, when their alpha female Erna passed away. One of the elephants, Fredzia, has been finding it particularly difficult to create a relationship with her female companion Bupa, since Erna’s death.
Because of this, Fredzia is believed to be the perfect candidate to try out the cannabis oil, in a bid to see if it helps with coming to terms with her loss.
Although it varies from individuals, it can take elephants anywhere between months and even years to come to terms with the death of an elder.
Dr Czujkowska explained:
When Erna passed away, everything changed. I don’t think Fredzia was ready for such a big change.
Staff at the zoo check the elephants’ hormone levels to get a feeling for how stressed they are, alongside monitoring their behaviour through observation.
The project has already begun, with the first stage, collecting faeces, saliva and blood samples from the elephants, officially complete.
The results of the project aren’t expected for at least two years, but in the meantime, Dr Czujkowska says, ‘but Fredzia is all alone and she needs [help] to manage it.’
Here’s to hoping the study allows Fredzia to find the peace she desperately deserves.
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