Elephant at Warsaw Zoo Prescribed Cannabis Oil

If successful, the zoo hopes to utilise its findings to support the use of CBD oil as a treatment option for other animals suffering from emotional distress.

Officials working at the Warsaw Zoo have confirmed that a young female African elephant named Fredzia will begin taking cannabis oil.

The zookeepers made the decision to prescribe Fredzia with medicinal cannabis after the animal began struggling following the loss of Erna, the largest and oldest elephant housed at the zoo.  

This is a huge game-changer in every elephant group. Elephants might have behavioural problems when the structure of a group changes. When Erna passed away, everything changed. I don't think Fredzia was ready for such a big change. Fredzia reacted strangely when she saw Erna's body. But you could see that she was also grieving actually, she was also depressed. Fredzia is always thinking about what Buba is doing now, before that she was more calm. Warsaw Zoo Animal Rehabilitation Department Head, Dr Agnieszka Czujkowska

The zookeepers say that this has caused Fredzia to become anxious and depressed, presenting Warsaw Zoo with a unique opportunity to trial an experimental new treatment.

The project will be led by Dr Agnieszka Czujkowska and will see Fredzia administered with a CBD oil formulation, in an attempt to ease her emotional turmoil.

"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," Dr Czujkowska said.

"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."

"But Fredzia is all alone and she needs [help] to manage it."

The zoo elected to trial the drug on elephants as they are prone to stress and easy to monitor, and Fredzia is expected to receive regular blood testing to ensure she remains in good health. However, Dr Czujkowska has confirmed that the zoo does not expect the elephant to experience any significant side effects.

If successful, the zoo hopes to utilise its findings to support the use of CBD oil as a treatment option for other animals suffering from emotional distress.

According to Dr Czujkowska, the project will also be the first of its kind to employ CBD as a mechanism for controlling the cortisol level of elephants, which could have huge implications for the future of zoological healthcare.

Although, this is not the first time that studies have been conducted to investigate the therapeutic benefits of CBD oil for dogs and other animals. In fact, in February this year a group of Texan researchers at Tarleton State University kicked off a study that will analyse the potential effectiveness of CBD for pain and anxiety management in horses.

The Warsaw Zoo medicinal cannabis trial is currently on schedule to run for a minimum of two years, with the expectation that the project will be expanded to include other stressed animals—such as rhinoceroses and bears—if the study yield promising results.   

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Hugo Gray
Hugo Gray

Hugo Gray is a Melbourne-based journalist with a body of work that covers a diverse range of topics, including immigration law, sex technology, and now the rapidly expanding cannabis industry.

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