Warsaw Zoo’s three African elephants were grieving, having recently lost their alpha female, Erna. Elephants are matriarchal, so females lead herds. In a video posted to Facebook, one zookeeper, Patryk Pyciński, explained that elephants can grieve after the loss of a herd member “for weeks, sometimes for years.” The elephants will receive cannabidiol (CBD) to relieve stress. CBD is the secondmost prevalent ingredient of cannabis, which, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol, the main one, doesn’t get you stoned.

Warsaw Zoo's three African elephants will be given a cannabis extract to relieve their stress.

Warsaw Zoo’s three African elephants will be given a cannabis extract to relieve their stress.

Fredzia grieved a lot

One elephant, Fryderyka, Fredzia for short, was particularly struck by the death of Erna. Dr Czujkowska detailed that Fredzia “was really excited” when she saw Erna’s body, “but you could see that she was also grieving, actually.” Sans Erna, Fredzia became the head of the herd. Dr Czujkowska noted, “When Erna passed away, everything changed. I don’t think Fredzia was ready for such a big change.” For a long time, Fredzia has attempted to control the other female, Buba; however, when she was around, Erna kept her in check and helped to resolve conflicts. But “Fredzia is always thinking about what Buba is doing now. Before that she was more calm.”

If she’s less stressed, Fredzia might conceive

Warsaw Zoo’s third elephant is Leon, a male. If it’s possible to relieve stress in Fredzia, she might conceive. With her own spawn to look after, she could then have less desire to dominate Buba.

“[T]he first initiative of its kind for elephants.”

Horses are being given CBD at Tarleton State University in Texas to relieve stress and inflammation. Dogs have also been given CBD in the past. But, as Dr Agnieszka Czujkowska, the vet who leads the project, put it: “This is probably the first initiative of its kind for elephants.” Administration of highly concentrated CBD will take place through the elephants’ trunks or food.

Look at their shit to gauge their stress

The zoo gauges the need to relieve stress in its elephants by observing them and monitoring the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood, droppings and saliva. Dr Czujkowska stated that the aim of using CBD was to discover a new natural alternative to the known ways to combat stress, particularly pharmaceutical drugs.

It’ll be a dozen drops of oil rather than a pipe that issues the CBD oil

Laughing, Dr Czujkowska remarked that despite what some people might think, the elephants will not be using bongs or given barrels of CBD oil. They will be given 12 drops twice or thrice a day. Dr Czujkowska commented that it will be about two years before there are conclusive results. If successful, other captive animals could be subject to this technique. Warsaw Zoo is considering trying it on its giraffes, polar bears and rhinos.

Of the CBD, Dr Czujkowska attested, “The female Fryderyka has already had a chance to try it, and she didn’t say no.” Poaching has reduced the number of elephants in the world from millions at the end of the 1800s to approximately 400,000 now.

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