2020 has been a rough year for everyone. That even applies to an elephant in the Warsaw Zoo, including a young female named Fredzia. In March, the eldest of the four elephants at the zoo, Erna, fell ill and died. Zookeepers noticed that this put a lot of stress on Fredzia, who relied heavily on Erna. Speaking to reporters, Dr. Agnieszka Czujkowska explained the animal’s distress.
“Fredzia reacted strangely when she saw Erna’s body. She was really excited,” the doctor told the BBC. “But you could see that she was also grieving actually, she was also depressed.”
Dr. Czujkowska, who is the head of the Warsaw Zoo’s Animal Rehabilitation department, has since suggested some unusual treatment for Fredzia’s stress.
Dr. Czujkowska told reporters that the death of an elder is a huge challenge for all elephant herds. Elephants are very intelligent animals, with complex social patterns that make them interesting for scientists to study. Scientists have observed that the three remaining elephants in the Warsaw Zoo are likely in need of something to help them cope with the loss of their elder.
So, Dr. Czujkowska has suggested a unique treatment: CBD oil. Cannabis-extract oils are often used by humans to calm down and relax. Now, scientists at the Warsaw Zoo are testing whether the substance can have similar effects on elephants.
Of course, they will likely need to use substantially more of the substance to get an effect: elephants are massive animals.
The Warsaw Zoo’s elephants will be the first animals to be given CBD while under official scientific observation. The reasoning is multifaceted. For one thing, the elephants have a brain chemistry that is similar to humans. Production of serotonin and dopamine can help elephants combat depression, just like humans.
For another thing, the elephants in captivity will be easy to observe. Elephant behaviors and expressions are well-understood by scientists. Should the CBD have no effect, or an adverse effect, scientists can terminate the experiment.
Finally, elephants are big, hardy creatures with a high constitution. This means they are less likely to be harmed by substances like CBD oil the way some smaller animals might be.
The experiment will involve measuring the cortisol levels in the elephants before and after the CBD oil is administered. Cortisol is a chemical created by many animals when they are in stressful situations.
Should the cortisol levels be lower after the CBD is applied, then scientists may be able to authorize its use for other elephants in similar stressful scenarios.