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Warsaw zoo is giving medical marijuana to elephants to reduce stress. Will they be seeing dancing pink elephants like Dumbo?

Elephants seeing pink? How this zoo is getting animals high

There’s been so much stigma surrounding marijuana use for decades. The medicinal & recreational plant was sort of a taboo among certain social circles. However, as more positive studies come out about marijuana, people’s minds are opening up and many states have legalized the use of medical or recreational marijuana. 

In fact, even zoos are looking into the medicinal value of marijuana. Warsaw zoo has issued liquid doses of cannabinoid CBD to three of their elephants in order to reduce their stress levels. 

Alas, the newest pro to medical marijuana use – it can help anxious elephants kick back and chill out. We can’t help but wonder if they’re seeing dancing pink elephants as Dumbo did. Here’s how the elephants are tokin’ it up so far. 

CBD as an animal relaxer

The Warsaw zoo decided to test the effectiveness of medical marijuana on three African elephants. In the test, the white elephants have been given the liquid dose of the high concentration relaxing cannabinoid CBD through their trunks. The elephants are being monitored for their stress levels – and so far they seem to be enjoying the relaxer.

Agnieszka Czujkowska, head of the zoo’s Animal Rehabilitation Department & veterinarian in charge of the experiment, didn’t just launch the project on a whim. There’s lots of research to suggest that medical cannabis can be a useful treatment worldwide to help lower stress in dogs & horses. But according to her, “this is probably the first initiative of its kind for elephants.”  

Zoo monitors closely track elephants’ stress levels by testing their hormone levels and making behavioral observations. It’s too early to glean any conclusive results – Czujkowska explained that it would take around two years before they can share their findings on marijuana effectiveness. But if the testing does yield successful results, it could be used on other animals living in captivity.

Will the elephants be high?

While we’d all like to imagine elephant stoners, the marijuana used in this study doesn’t quite work the same way as it does when the average joe hits a bowl. Czujkowska joked about silly misconceptions about elephants & marijuana, saying:

“Contrary to what some would imagine, the elephants won’t be using cannabis pipes nor will they be getting huge barrels of it” to match their size.”  

Czujkowska emphasized that CBD (without the psychoactive element of cannabis THC) does not cause intoxication or euphoria (so probably no pink elephant hallucinations). But it also has no harmful impact on the liver & kidneys. She’s very hopeful about the project, saying, “It’s an attempt to find a new natural alternative to the existing methods of combating stress, especially pharmaceutical drugs.”

Losing Erna

The medical marijuana testing couldn’t have come at a better time for the three African elephants in Warsaw zoo. The zoo’s small herd of elephants recently experienced the loss of their alpha female, named Erna. Erna was the largest female in the group and the leading elder.

Fredzia, one of her elephant companions, was left grieving after Erna’s death – the event causing him serious stress. After Erna passed, the Zookeeper’s immediately noticed a major change in Fredzia’s behavior as she grappled with her loss. Agnieszka Czujkowska described Fredizia’s alarming reaction:

“Fredzia reacted strangely when she saw Erna’s body. She was really excited. But you could see that she was also grieving actually, she was also depressed.”

Elephants are a tight-knit bunch – so when a loss happens it changes the dynamics gravely, inevitably causing emotional turmoil. In order to cope with the distressing loss, Warsaw saw it as a great opportunity to test the usage of CBD oil. 

Derived from the cannabis plant compound, CBD has the ability to stimulate the production of serotonin & dopamine in the brain – thus a promising treatment for depression. We send our best wishes to the elephant trio in their time of grieving. A little weed never hurts when you’re getting blue.  

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