Tranquillization and Translocation of Captive Bulls
Jacob V. Cheeran, K.C. Panicker, R.K. Kaimal
Kerala is a small coastal state located in the south of India.
It enjoys a tropical climate with heavy rainfall, has an area
of 39 000 km2 and a captive elephant population of
approximately 600. Nearly 500 hundred of these elephants
are bulls (tuskers). Temple, church and mosque festivals
are a common occurrence in Kerala and it is common to
see 50 to 60 tuskers at these festivals. Only tuskers are
used on such occasions.
During the last two decades more than 400 (418, as of 29
January 2001) bulls in musth have been tranquillized and
translocated. Table 1 gives the seasonal distribution of
tranquillized elephants up to June 2000.
Tranquillization is done either at the festivals, in villages,
towns, and timber yards or occasionally in forests where
lumbering operations are carried out. No kunkies (monitor
elephants) have been used. Darting is done invariably on
foot, except on rare occasions when it is done from the top
of a building or from a tree. After sedation the animal has
to be translocated to a safe tethering site a short distance
away until it is amenable to safe handling by the mahout.
Occasionally an elephant will have to be darted with the
mahout still on the top of the elephant when it does not
allow the mahout to climb down. Initially, nicotine was used
but was later discontinued. On one occasion, Xylazine
(@100 mg/MT of body weight) with Ketamine was used to
tranquillize bulls and once Gallamine was used.
Ketamine and Xylazine together did not produce as much
synergism as has been observed in carnivores. Ketamine
produced photo-sensitization. When the animal is left to
stand in the hot sun a triangular ‘burn' patch beginning
from the neck to the thoracic portion on the back is
produced. A large number of animals have been controlled
using an Acepromazine (40 to 60 mg/MT body weight) -
Xylazine combination. The sedation was good and
manipulation was easy. But some of the elephants that
were exposed to the direct sunlight developed photo-
sensitization on the dorsal aspect. The area, which
suffered the sunburn, was triangular in shape with the
dimension of 45 x 90 x 90 cm, approximately with the base
beginning from the neck.
To prevent the sunburn, as well as to arouse the animal
from sedation, water was poured over the animal.
However, to avoid the occurrence of photo sensitization
the Acepromazine, which is a Phenothiazine derivative,
was later avoided and only Xylazine (@100 mg/MT of body
weight) was used. The equipment used was a Palmer's
Cap-chur gun or a Dist Inject using a detonating
mechanism (syringe charge) for the drug injection. Any
disturbance during the injection prolongs the induction
period for a considerable time. Because most of the
darting takes place in crowded areas it is very difficult to
contain the excitement of the crowd so some disturbance is
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