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Research article2021Peer reviewed

Standing sedation with xylazine and reversal with yohimbine in juvenile asian elephants (Elephas maximus)

Jansson, Tina; Perera, B. Vijitha; Edner, Anna; Fahlman, Asa


Evaluation and improvement of immobilization methods are important for wildlife welfare and biodiversity conservation. The sedative and physiological effects of xylazinc (50-110 mg per elephant; 0.09-0.15 mg/kg IM) were evaluated in 15 juvenile Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in Sri Lanka. The time from xylazine injection until first sign of sedation, handling, and reversal with yohimbine (0.009-0.03 mg/kg IV) were recorded. Behavioral signs, level of sedation (no effect, light, moderate, or deep) and response to handling were assessed. Rectal temperature, pulse, and respiratory rates were recorded and arterial blood samples were analyzed 30 and 45 min after xylazine injection. The first sign of sedation occurred within 5-18 min. Standing sedation was induced in all elephants, but the level of sedation varied differently over time for each elephant. Twelve elephants remained standing throughout the sedation period, while 3 elephants became laterally recumbent. Sedative effects included lowered head and trunk, droopy ears, snoring, and penis protrusion. Pulse rate, respiratory rate, and rectal temperature ranged between 30-45 beats/min, 4-12 breaths/min, and 35.6-37.2 degrees C, respectively, at 30 min after xylazine injection, and there were no changes over time. Pulmonary function and acid-base balance were adequate (range partial pressures of arterial oxygen 73-123 mmHg and carbon dioxide 33-52 mmHg, arterial hemoglobin oxygen saturation 96-99%, pH 7.34-7.54, lactate 0.9-2.5 mmol/L). Yohimbine was administered 46-110 min after the injection of xylazine, and the first sign of recovery occurred within 1-4 min. Resedation after reversal with yohimbine was observed in two elephants. In conclusion, xylazine at the doses used induced light to deep sedation with stable physiology and most elephants remained standing.

Published in

Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
2021, Volume: 52, number: 2, pages: 437-444

      SLU Authors

    • Associated SLU-program

      SLU Swedish Biodiversity Centre

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Clinical Science

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