Poland’s Warsaw Zoo intends to give its elephants medical marijuana in an attempt to lower their stress levels.
The zoo will give three African elephants a liquid dose of CBD oil to see whether it has similar relaxing effects to those reported by human use. It will be administered either through their food, or directly into their mouths.
It may be the “first initiative of its kind for elephants”, Dr. Agnieszka Czujkowska told BBC News.
Dogs and horses have successfully been treated through use of this cannabinoid, in various locations globally. However, Dr. Agnieszka Czujkowska who is leading this project believes that it may 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 [whether the oil] is working or not,” she added.
While CBD oil is derived from the cannabis plant, it does not produce a euphoric ‘high’ that is typically cause by smoking or ingesting the plant. Thankfully, the Warsaw Zoo will not have a case of drug-addled elephants at its hands.
Moreover, Dr. Czujkowska reaffirmed that the CBD oil will not have any harmful effects on the elephants’ liver or kidneys. If successful, CBD oil may actually be beneficial to the elephants as “a new natural alternative to the existing methods of combating stress, especially pharmaceutical drugs.”
“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 noted.
The African elephants have been plagued with stress since Erna, their alpha female, passed away in March. While it depends on the individual, elephants can take months or even years to process the death of an elder.
Fredzia, one of the three elephants left behind, has found this change particularly difficult to grasp. Fredzia has also struggled to establish a new relationship with Bupa, her female companion.
“When Erna passed away, everything changed. I don’t think Fredzia was ready for such a big change,” explains Dr. Czujkowska.
For this reason, Fredzia is the ideal candidate to test the CBD oil to determine whether it is effective in helping her cope with her loss.
Staff at the Warsaw Zoo keeps an eye on the elephants’ behaviour, as well as checking their hormone levels to determine how stressed they are.
The project is already underway, and the first stage, collecting faeces, saliva and blood samples from the elephants, is now completed.
Results from the experiment aren’t expected for another two years at least, but the aim is to help the elephants: as Dr Czujkowska says, “Fredzia is all alone and she needs [help] to manage it.”
If all goes well, let’s hope that Fredzia finally finds some peace in her life.