Elephants in Polish zoo are given cannabis for stress relief

The Warsaw Zoo is going to give its three elephants medicinal cannabis to see if it reduces the animals' stress.

The leader of the herd recently passed away. Since then, the remaining elephants have been disrupted, especially the three-year-old African female Fredzia. "She reacted strangely. You could see that she was sad and depressed," says veterinarian and head of research Agnieszka Czujkowska to the BBC. S.tress in the animals is measurable in their hormone levels, and also visible in their behavior.

"Contrary to what some think, the elephants don't smoke hookah and they won't get huge amounts of weed that fit their size," Czujkowska told AFP news agency..

Horses and dogs

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

The dose of cannabis oil for an elephant is comparable to the dose used for 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 on CBD is still in its infancy.

The trial in the Polish zoo will last two years. If the results are good, the cannabis oil can be tested on other animals living in captivity, the researchers said.