TECHNIQUE

Euthanasia of Elephants (Disease Investigation & Management - Treatment and Care)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords
Description
  • Administer sufficient sedative or anaesthetic agent (e.g. xylazine) to induce recumbency [and unconsciousness]. (B10.49.w21, D307.3.15.w27)
  • In the recumbent [unconscious] elephant, administer 1.0 to 3.0 kg of potassium chloride intravenously, to induce cardiac arrest. (B10.49.w21)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • For euthanasia. (B10.49.w21, D307.3.15.w27)
  • Potassium chloride may be used in the field to reduce the risk of secondary poisoning of scavengers where disposal of the carcass of an anaesthetised animal is not assured. (J4.218.w1)
Notes
  • Care must be taken to ensure that personnel working nearby are aware that a hands-on procedure is being carried out. Both personnel directly involved with the procedure, and those working nearby, need to ensure that movements and noise (from telephones, bleepers, shutting doors, heavy machinery etc.) that might disturb the elephant, both inside and outside the elephant area, are minimized during the procedure. This includes activities at nearby enclosures that might be audible to the elephant and could startle it. (V.w6, V.w72, V.w84, V.w86, V.w88)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Elephants are very large, heavy and strong, highly intelligent, can move surprisingly quickly and can be highly strung at times: 
    • Depending on the management system (free contact / no contact / protected contact), and the character and training of the individual elephant, it may be necessary to carry out any hands-on procedure with the elephant under sedation and/or in an elephant restraint device.
    • There is always some risk to personnel involved when carrying out hands-on procedures on a conscious elephant.

    (V.w6, V.w72, V.w84, V.w86, V.w88)

  • Use of potassium chloride to cause death is not considered humane unless the animal is unconscious (at a surgical plane of anaesthesia). 
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Appropriate sedative or anaesthetic agent such as xylazine

  • Potassium chloride

Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Expertise and experience of the elephant handler(s) are critical when carrying out hands-on procedures on a conscious elephant. (V.w6, V.w72, V.w84, V.w86, V.w88)
Cost/ Availability --
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • When working with elephants it is important always to remember that their size and weight means that they can injure people easily, whether intentionally or unintentionally. The potential risks to all personnel involved must be considered before any hands-on procedure is initiated, and remembered during the procedure. It is critical that all personnel are highly trained and understand their respective roles and responsibilities during the procedure, that one person has overall command responsibility, and that no unnecessary people are present within the contact area. (V.w6, V.w72, V.w84, V.w86, V.w88)
  • Use of potassium chloride to cause death is not considered humane unless the animal is unconscious. 
  • Use of a free bullet for elephant euthanasia in captive situations is dangerous. (D307.3.15.w27)
Author Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MCVS (V.w5)
Referee Susan K. Mikota DVM (V.w72)
References B10.49.w21, J4.218.w1, D307.3.15.w27 - full text available, V.w6, V.w72, V.w84, V.w86, V.w88

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