KoerGer Science, a division of Wildlife Pharmaceuticals, is an essential service provider, producing active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) for the veterinary industry. Faced with global COVID-19 restrictions, our team has certainly needed to rapidly adapt to the ever-changing environment we find ourselves in. With a focus on maintaining the quality of our products while ensuring the safety of our personnel, we have implemented a number of risk mitigating procedures based on thorough daily risk assessments. We have managed to avoid disruptions to our supply chain and hope to keep moving forward in providing our customers with the quality products they have come to expect from us for.
Sedating captive elephants can be tricky! Not only is it complicated working with such a large animal when it’s lying down, but it can be stressful for the other elephants housed in the same group to watch as one of their counterparts is darted and brought to the ground.
Herein lies the challenge: how do you sedate an elephant enough to do minor veterinary procedures while still keeping it on its feet? The answer lies in a unique ratio of butorphanol, azaperone and medetomidine. The combination provides good sedation and analgesia without completely immobilizing the elephant….AND the added bonus is that the effects are fully reversible with naltrexone and atipamezole.
We tested the combination on 14 semi-captive elephants at Hoedspruit Elephant Rehabilitation and Development (H.E.R.D.). The elephants were successfully sedated while standing, allowing us to treat their wounds, take blood samples and safely vaccinate them all without any reactions. After 50 minutes, the sedation was fully reversed and in less than 8 minutes, all of the elephants had re-joined the herd.
A special thank you to the Dr Peter Rogers, Ms Adine Roode and the rest of the team at H.E.R.D. for their invaluable assistance. Without them, this study would not have been possible.
Dr Toni Harthoorn was a veterinarian, an environmentalist and the reason we are able to do what we do. He pioneered the development of large-animal tranquilizers and was part of the team that developed etorphine hydrochloride and tested it for the first time to immobilize wildlife. He also helped refine the dart gun as we know it today. His breakthrough work has led to veterinarians worldwide being able to safely capture and transport wild animal and is recorded in his first book: The Flying Syringe. Dr Harthoorn’s animal sanctuary was even the inspiration for the television series Daktari. He died in 2012, at the age of 89. From all of us at Wildlife Pharmaceuticals, we salute you Dr Harthoorn.
Giraffes have a unique anatomy and physiology, making them one of the most challenging species to safely immobilize. Their large size makes them difficult to handle and their characteristically long neck, if not controlled, can create a danger to itself and the capture team. The chemical immobilization of giraffes dates back to the 1960’s, when increasing doses of succinylcholine was used to paralyze animals. Since then, many advances have been made to refine the drug combinations used and today, giraffes can safely be captured, walked into trailers and transported thanks to the pioneering work of veterinarians in the field. For more on the anaesthesia of this unique species, download this article by renowned vets, Dr Cobus Raath, Dr Mitch Bush and Dr Douw Grobler: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/eca2/f3bf785d005ca0f37be867a06291ab3e7671.pdf?_ga=2.250106950.1197323994.1586853602-417917509.1574238585
Wildlife Pharmaceuticals, the National Zoological Gardens and the Mabula Ground hornbill project have an ongoing project where we are trying to find an orally administered drug combination that can be used to safely sedate Southern Ground Hornbills. This might sound simple and straight forward but to date, no oral sedation protocol has ever been developed for this species.
Some interesting facts about the Southern Ground Hornbill:
- They are the largest of all the hornbills and one of the world’s longest-lived birds, living on average 35-40 years in the wild
- They are monogamous breeders that reach maturity at 6 years. They are also very slow breeders and a pair produces just one brood of two chicks every nine years – only one of which survives
- Owing to large scale habitat destruction and its exceedingly slow reproductive rate, the Southern Ground Hornbill is classed as vulnerable to extinction; however, in South Africa, where most studies on the species have been carried out, it is listed as endangered
For more information and to support the incredible work done by the Mabula Ground Hornbill Project, visit http://ground-hornbill.org.za/