Warsaw Zoo in Poland has recently made the headlines after it announced on its website that it’s going to start treating its three African elephants with CBD oil.

CBD oil been gaining popularity in the human health and wellness world for some time. It looks as if the animal kingdom is now getting in on the craze too.

Here’s the backdrop to the intriguing story.

The Background to the Story

Back in March, keepers at Warsaw Zoo discovered that one the female African elephants, Erna, the head of the herd, had died of natural causes.

Elephants are social animals and group dynamics are an important part of daily life. Elephants are known to develop behavioural problems when the structure of a herd changes.

Following Erna’s passing, zookeepers noticed a change in group dynamics, as a power struggle began between two of the remaining female elephants, Fredzia and Buba.

Fredzia had long attempted to dominate Buba, but was kept in check to some degree by Erna, who helped to resolve conflicts.

However, following Erna's death, zookeepers noticed that Fredzia in particular had appeared more anxious and stressful.

They tested the elephant's blood, urine and faeces to determine the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. The elevated levels of cortisol they found supported the diagnosis of stress and explained the behavioural change.

In response, the zoo has decided to take unorthodox action. It’s stated it’s going to give the three African elephants doses of cannabidiol to try to reduce their stress levels.

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What is Cannabidiol?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of over 100 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids that are found in the cannabis plant, Cannabis sativa.

In cannabis, the main chemical that causes the sensation of getting ‘high’ is called Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive. However, it is proving to be increasing popular as a natural remedy for many common ailments due it’s ability to relieve pain.

At Warsaw Zoo, the oil that will be given to the elephants will not have any psychoactive properties.

Will giving CBD oil to elephants work?

CBD oil has previously been given to other animals such as horses and dogs.

Small studies have suggested there may be a benefit. For example, in 2019, a leading university in the US found that stress levels in dogs fell after taking CBD.

The initial doses will be comparable to those given to horses: a vial’s worth of a dozen drops of CBD oil, two or three times a day. The liquid doses will be administered through their trunks.

The zookeepers believe it will take around two years before they have any conclusive results as to whether it's been successful or not.

If it’s deemed a success, they’ve indicated the approach could then be tried with other animals living in captivity. The other animals at the zoo include giraffes, rhinos and polar bears.

They say an elephant never forgets. Let’s hope the CBD oil will help the elephants forget their stress.

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This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Written by Matthew Sweeney, Co-Founder

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