Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Zoos prescribe drugs to anxious animals

A gorilla and a tiger on Valium. A swamp monkey on anti-psychotic medicine.

The Toledo Zoo, like many other zoos around the nation, is increasingly using antidepressants and tranquilizers to manage their animals' behavioral problems.

Sometimes, zoo keepers use drugs to calm down animals when they are at odds or when they are moved into a new enclosure.

The zoo's zebras were given an anti-psychotic drug that is used to treat schizophrenia in humans when the zebras were being moved into the zoo's new Africa exhibit.

That's because zebras will chase anything new or unfamiliar in their environment, said Wynona Shellabarger, the zoo's veterinarian.

"It would be silly to try an introduction without some type of intervention," she told The Blade in a story published Monday.

The zebras were put on the drug haloperidol again when an impala in the same exhibit gave birth. "Zebra are known to kill baby impala. That's just a natural behavior," Shellabarger said.

The same drug, though, didn't work on a swamp monkey named Maxine who was fighting with her daughter. The zoo tried the drug on Maxine over the objections of the monkeys' keeper.

It first made the monkey groggy, but a reduced dose didn't stop her attacks so Maxine's daughter was separated from the group. "It's not a foolproof thing," Shellabarger said.

Story here.

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