The elephant feed at the Warsaw Zoo is about to get a very chill new ingredient — medicinal marijuana. “This is probably the first initiative of its kind for elephants,” per Agnieszka Czujkowska, the veterinarian tasked with giving weed to the zoo animals. While it may sound strange that a zookeeper would want to get their animals high, what Czujkowska and the Warsaw Zoo have in mind is less psychedelic and more therapeutic. In other words, no one will be passing the joint to Dumbo.
Instead, the zoo plans to dose the elephants with CBD, an extract from medicinal marijuana. As is now pretty common knowledge, unlike THC, the psychoactive component in pot that makes a person feel “high,” CBD won’t give the elephants the munchies, feel an affinity for Seth Rogen comedies or turn them pink and inspire an impromptu parade. “Contrary to what some would imagine, the elephants won’t be using cannabis pipes, nor will they be getting huge barrels of it,” Czujkowska has clarified. (The CBD market for animals is expanding fast, as it’s expected to generate $125 million in revenue by 2022.)
In March, Erna, the 35-year-old matriarch of the Warsaw Zoo’s elephant population, passed away. Her two elephant friends, Fredzia and Buba, have been in mourning ever since. Along the way, the zookeepers have been trying to help them deal with their grief. Hence, the CBD.
“After the loss of the herd leader, Fredzia and Buba are going through a very difficult time connected with establishing a new hierarchy, which is even more difficult as they form only a group of two,” another of the zookeepers, Patryk Pyciński, has explained. “The females are very closely related and now have to get along with each other, which generates a lot of stress. It can take months or even years for elephants to cope with such a big change. We’re trying to help them return to their psychophysical balance.”
The director of the Warsaw Zoo, Andrzej Grzegorz Kruszewicz, approved the experimental CBD treatment based on the well-known fact that elephants often suffer from anxiety. “Stress in elephants is a widely known topic,” he’s said. “Numerous studies are conducted in this area, but we haven’t yet found a description of a similar project, so we’re glad that we can implement it.”
The zoo plans to treat the elephants with two to three doses of CBD per day. The amount is comparable to what’s prescribed for a horse — roughly a dozen drops of CBD oil. If the CBD helps the elephants, the Warsaw Zoo next plans to get their rhinos and bears some medicinal marijuana as well.
In the meantime, the elephants just need to make sure they don’t get pulled over with weed in the trunk. (Sorry, but it was right there.)