Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Conference abstract2004

Reversible anaesthesia of free-ranging lions (Panthera leo) in Zimbabwe

Fahlman Åsa, Loveridge Andrew, Foggin Chris, Wenham Colin, Arnemo Jon Martin, Nyman Görel


When anaesthetising free-ranging wildlife it is important to use reliable methods that expose the animals to minimal stress. Induction and recovery periods need to be rapid and smooth, and physiologic parameters should be stable throughout anaesthesia. The aim of this study was to evaluate the combination of medetomidine (M), zolazepam (Z), tiletamine (T), and atipamezole for reversible field anaesthesia of lions (Panthera leo). Eleven free-ranging lions (body weight 131-209 kg) were anaesthetised on 13 occasions for fitting of radio-collars and ear tags, or for tuberculosis testing. Medetomidine was given at a mean (range) dosage of 0.047 mg/kg (0.040-0.055) in combination with ZT at 0.80 mg/kg (0.52-1.38). The drug mixture was delivered i.m. using a dart syringe fired from a dart gun. Respiratory and heart rates, rectal temperature, and relative oxyhemoglobin saturation (SpO2) were recorded every 15 min. For reversal of the anaesthesia, atipamezole at 0.20 mg/kg (0.10-0.28) was administered i.m. 86 min (46-140) after darting. The induction was smooth, and complete anaesthesia with excellent muscle relaxation occurred within 6 min (4-10) in all lions. No additional doses were required. Physiologic parameters ranged as follows: respiratory rate 14-38 breaths per minute, heart rate 40-75 beats per minute, rectal temperature 37.6-40.9°C, and SpO2 85-96%. Atipamezole effectively reversed the anaesthesia, and recovery was smooth in all animals. Time to first signs of recovery was 13 min (4-30) after reversal. The animals were walking within 31 min (15-69) after injection of atipamezole, when ZT dosages under 1 mg/kg were used (n=9). In conclusion, the combination of MZT reversed with atipamezole was a safe and effective anaesthesia protocol for free-ranging lions at the dosages used in this study. Acknowledgements Special thanks to the many members of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management in Zimbabwe, Hwange Lion Research, Malilangwe Trust, and the Wildlife Veterinary Unit for valuable assistance during preparations and field operations. We also wish to acknowledge Michael Forsgren's Fund, Stiftelsen Svenska Kvinnors Djurskyddsförening, Orion Pharma Animal Health, Dansjö Medical, and Scandivet for their generous support


anaesthesia; lion; Panthera leo; medetomidine; tiletamine; zolazepam; atipamezole

Published in

Publisher: A.H.M. Erken, G.M. Dorrestein


European Association of Zoo- and Wildlife Veterinarians (EAZWV) meeting