Elephants in Polish zoo get cannabis against stress

The zoo in Warsaw is going to give its three elephants medicinal cannabis to see if this will reduce stress in the animals.

The leader of the herd died recently. Since then, the remaining elephants have been disturbed, especially the three-year-old African female Fredzia. “She reacted strangely. You could tell she was sad and depressed,” says veterinarian and head of research Agnieszka Czujkowska to the BBC. Stress in the animals is measurable in their hormone levels, and also visible in their behaviour.

“Contrary to what some people think, the elephants won’t smoke a bong and they won’t get huge amounts of weed that match their size,” Czujkowska told press agency AFP.

Horses and dogs

The elephants are given the remedy with a dose of oil through their food and directly into their mouths. This has a relaxing effect and is not harmful, says Czujkowska. “We are trying to find a natural alternative to the existing ways of combating stress, especially medication.” Medicinal cannabis is already administered to horses, cats and dogs, but according to veterinarian Czujkowska, this is the first pilot project for elephants.

The dose of weed oil for an elephant is comparable to the dose used in horses: a maximum of twelve drops of CBD oil three times a day.

Cannabis oil is legally available in many countries and is also used by people for pain and tension complaints. The oil is said to stimulate the production of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, substances that help fight depression. Although researchers, doctors and users report positive effects, research into CBD is still in its infancy.

The trial at the Polish Zoo will last two years. If the results are good, the weed oil can be tested on other animals living in captivity, according to the researchers.