Sometimes animals get stressed out too. A zoo in Warshaw, Poland is trying unconventional methods to relieve anxiety and stress in its African elephant population. They’re prescribing the herd CBD oil.
CBD oil or cannabidiol is one of 100 active ingredients in cannabis. Unlike marijuana, it doesn’t contain THC, the chemical that causes psychological effects, according to USA TODAY.
The zoo initially had four elephants, but Erna, the eldest female and elder of the herd, passed away in March. The passing of a loved one has been difficult for the remaining three, especially Frezia.
“Fredzia reacted strangely when she saw Erna’s body. She was really excited,” Agnieszka Czujkowska, head of the zoo’s Animal Rehabilitation Department, told the BBC. “But you could see that she was also grieving actually, she was also depressed.”
Fredzia struggled since then to establish a new relationship with a fellow elephant in her herd. A death can affect elephants for months or even years. The Warsaw Zoo took this opportunity to test whether CBD oil can help animals with anxiety.
“This is a huge game-changer in every elephant group. Elephants might have behavioural problems when the structure of a group changes,” Czujkowska said.
The zoo will closely monitor the effects of CBD oil.
The elephants will receive the CBD oil first because they’re both prone to stress and easy to monitor. The zoo considers Fredzia in particular to be an ideal candidate due to her recent behavior.
Researchers have completed the first stage in the trial. They’ve collected feces, saliva and blood samples to monitor the elephant’s cortisol levels. Cortisol is the body’s stress hormone. The zoo will administer the CBD oil directly or mixed into the elephants’ food. The zoo does not expect any harmful side effects.
“We are planning to give them the CBD and measure the cortisol again,” Czujkowska said. “This is the experiment. Then we know for sure [the oil] is working or not.”