Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Prozac for gorillas?

Haldol for zebras? From the Toledo Blade: Zoos using drugs to help manage anxious animals.
Johari the gorilla is on antidepressants. It eases her PMS.

When the Toledo Zoo needed calm zebras, it used an antipsychotic medication to quiet their jitters. Zoo staffers tried to soothe wildebeests with antipsychotic medication for eight months last year, and even occasionally this year. A swamp monkey was dosed with the antipsychotic, but it didn’t help her get along with her daughter. It wasn’t much good for ostrich aggression either. Yet a little Valium calmed the silverback gorilla when one of the females had a doctor visit. And Prozac helped a female orangutan negotiate life in her group.

Now that humans have warmly embraced citizenship in the Prozac Nation, zoo animals are making tentative gallops, flights, and knuckle-walks into the world of psychotropic pharmaceuticals.

In the last decade, zoos across the nation have turned to antidepressants, tranquilizers, and even antipsychotic drugs such as haloperidol, sold as Haldol, to ease behavioral problems in zoo denizens.

“They’re definitely a wonderful management tool, and that’s how we look at them,” said the Toledo Zoo’s mammal curator, Randi Meyerson. “To be able to just take the edge off puts us a little more at ease.”

Most often, the drugs are short-term interventions to help animals through a bad patch, but occasionally, they become a long-term treatment for animal behavior.

...Although there is little published veterinary literature about the effects of drugs like haloperidol in wild animals, the use of psychotropic drugs is likely to increase, as zoos look for ways to keep confined animals as happy and as injury-free as possible.

“It seems to me if people are willing to keep animals in a zoo, they ought to do anything necessary to make those lives as atraumatic as possible,” Dr. Overall said.



Blogger Greg P said...

I don't know if you've seen March of the Penguins or not.
As brutal as the weather is down in Antarctica, as regimented as the Emperor penguins lives are, one thing that occurred to me while watching that movie is how "wrong" it seems to take these birds out of that environment and stick them in zoos, where their lives lose that regimented meaning.

7:46 AM  

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