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Poland’s Warsaw Zoo Hoping CBD Helps Stressed Elephants


An experimental program to treat two stressed African elephants with CBD is now underway.


When it comes to being stressed out, humans don’t have the market cornered.

To be fair, there are plenty of reasons to be overwhelmed at the moment. From natural disasters to violent politics to economic squalor, things are, generally speaking, not great. However, as much as humankind may like to think itself superior to other species, common threads — like stress — show that animals of all stripes still share a great deal in common.

Obviously there are a number of reasons for non-humans to be feeling anxiety and distress right now too.

Just to pick one example, there’s currently a chemical fire burning in the Gulf Coast that will assuredly do no favors to local furry, feathered, and scaled inhabitants. Of course, it doesn’t take a disaster of that magnitude to appreciate that stress isn’t exclusive to people. Most pets will make it plenty clear that they’re capable of being stressed whenever a thunderstorm or an appointment with the veterinarian approaches.

Building on this premise, is it possible that a medicine thus far targeted towards human consumption could also treat animals suffering from a similar condition? Officials at Poland’s Warsaw Zoo are hoping that that it will.

The stakes: the mental well-being of two African elephants under the zoo’s care. One, Fredzia, is now receiving CBD oil in hopes of treating what amounts to a broken heart. Fredzia’s woe reportedly stems from the recent death of another elephant, Erna, who was formerly the head pachyderm of their herd.

In the wake of Erna’s death, Fredzia has “had difficulty readjusting,” according to a Facebook video made by Warsaw Zoo zookeeper Patryk Pyciński.

“Elephants are extremely intelligent animals with very complicated brains,” Pyciński also notes in the clip. “They’re very social animals that are interdependent on each other and as a group they create a complicated organism.”

Thus the announcement this week that Fredzia — along with another female herd member, Buba — will be receiving doses of a non-psychoactive form of medicinal CBD oil.

As reported by CNN, Buba has apparently been the victim of Fredzia’s “tough trunk mentality” in trying “to assert her dominance.” Is it possible that CBD may be the cure to what ails these elephants?

Research into the efficacy of CBD on non-humans remains ongoing, but the data we do have is certainly promising. There is, for example, already science and informed suggestions to follow when it comes to administering CBD oil to dogs. Ditto for cats as well. If it feels like a large leap to go from household pets to a species of mammal with a five-digit weight class, Warsaw Zoo veterinarian Agnieszka Czujkowska doesn’t sound worried.

As the person leading the charge to treat Fredzia and Buba with CBD, Czujkowska noted how the cannabinoid has already found use in treating dogs and horses in a video she shared to YouTube. She also cautioned that it might take months to see results, citing the prevalence of conflict among elephants in a herd.

“Many factors can make an elephant feel uncomfortable and stressed,” Czujkowska explains in the clip. “We would like to see how CBD oil — hemp flower extract — affects elephants. Like most zoos, we do research. We monitor the level of stress hormones. Thanks to this we will know if the substances help the elephants.”

In terms of sourcing the medicine, the Warsaw Zoo has turned to CBD oil producer Dobrekonopie. As Czujkowska’s quote above makes clear, the CBD being used to treat two of the zoo’s elephants is derived not from the full cannabis plant, but instead only the hemp stalk. This is notable as some hold firm to what’s known as “the entourage effect” — essentially the idea that cannabinoids are at their most effective when working in tandem.

While no one wants to be the one who accidentally gets an elephant high, it thus stands to reason that should Fredzia or Buba fail to get their pachyderm groove back after this round of CBD, hopefully a full-spectrum alternative will be considered before throwing in the towel.

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