A zoo is planing to give cannabis oil to stressed-out elephants who have been coping with the death of their alpha-female.
The zoo, in Warsaw, Poland, will be experimenting CBD oil to help three elephants cope with the loss of their friend, as elephants struggle to cope with loss.
The herd recently lost its matriarch, Erna, and the gentle giants have been stressed out ever since, with elevated cortisol levels detected.
CBD oil is derived from a cannabis plant compounds and does not contain THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis.
Three African elephants at the zoo will receive small liquid doses of CBD oil, two or three times a day, though their trunks or mixed into their food.
It has been used to treat dogs and horses, but this will be the first time a much larger animal has been exposed to the treatment, especially to monitor hormone stress levels.
As CBD oil does not contain THC, it is unlikely to induce euphoria in the already passive pachyderms as it is to cause any negative side effects.
Zoo staff have taken faeces, saliva and blood samples to monitor the level of the stress hormone cortisol prior to dosing them, and will monitor this over the coming months and years.
Agnieszka Czujkowska, the veterinarian in charge of the project and head of the zoo's animal rehabilitation department, said: "This is probably the first initiative of its kind for elephants.”
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She added: "It’s an attempt to find a new, natural alternative to the existing methods of combating stress, especially pharmaceutical drugs.
"Contrary to what some would imagine, the elephants won’t be using cannabis pipes nor will they be getting huge barrels of it!"
It’s estimated it will take two years before the experiment yields any conclusive results. If the pilot project proves successful, Warsaw Zoo may expand CBD oil use to rhinos and bears.
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