A recent disturbing toxicology report on two deceased dolphins was leaked this week showing that two dolphins had buprenorphine (Suboxone or Subutex) in their systems. The dolphins lived at Connyland Zoo in Switzerland; the zoo rented out part of their property for a rave against the advice of animal rights advocacy groups. The dolphins died in November of 2011, Shadow just after the rave and Chelmers two days later (Batt, 2012). Before passing, Shadow appeared, “disoriented and distressed” (Australian Times, 2011). Buprenorphine causes respiratory depression and drowsiness, and dolphins are conscious breathers. It is likely that they were unable to breathe (Batt, 2012).
Buprenorphine is a synthetic opiate that is used medically for individuals addicted to heroin and to control pain in non-addicts. Opiate individuals take buprenorphine in high doses marketed as Suboxone and Subutex. Suboxone and Subutex are sublingual tablets. For acute pain, buprenorphine marketed as Temgesic and Buprenex can be injected. For chronic pain, individuals use buprenorphine patches sold as Norspan and Butrans (Wikipedia, 2012). Recreationally, some individuals crush the sublingual tablets of Suboxone and snort them. Some European countries are particularly known for using buprenorphine recreationally. According to one source, “In 2007, the authorities in Uppsala county in Sweden confiscated more buprenorphine than cocaine, ecstasy, and heroin” (Wikipedia, 2012).
The most likely occurrence is that the dolphins were actually fed buprenorphine. Originally, animal rights activists were primarily concerned with the noise levels, and while the noise levels reaching over 100 decibels when measured outside of the zoo must have been distressing (Australian Times, 2011), the idea of someone actually feeding a dolphin a drug like buprenorphine is beyond inhumane, completely preposterous, and cruel.
One zoo keeper interviewed told how Chelmers passed, “He was drifting under the water and was clearly in trouble and so we jumped into the water. We tried to hold him. He was shaking all over and was foaming at the mouth. Eventually we got him out of the water. His tongue was hanging out. He could hardly breathe. He was given adrenalin, but it didn’t help. After an hour the dolphin died” (Lendon, 2012).
When I think about the person who gave them the buprenorphine, I think that if they had it, they must have been taking it themselves, most likely recreationally. Maybe they were taking it too much or mixing it with other drugs, but regardless I think that they saw the dolphins and on the spot decided to feed them some buprenorphine. The dolphins were trained and perhaps were even begging for fish with their mouths open, like I saw at Sea World as a child. They threw the drugs in and went on their merry raving way, not even thinking to see the effects that their pills had on the dolphins. The whole situation is a paragon of drug-related impaired judgment. Ultimately, I wonder if the ravers remembered and realized the consequences of their actions, probably feeling guilty. Alternatively, they may not even remember feeding the dolphins sublingual buprenorphine tablets.
I think this is a reminder not only to animal activists but to all drug addicts just how big of an effect our drug-induced ideas can have on the world around us.
Australian Times. (2011, November 11). Flipped Out. Retrieved 2012, from Australian times: http://www.austriantimes.at/news/Around_the_World/2011-11-11/37490/Flipped_Out
Batt, E. (2012, May 6). Op-Ed: Did dolphins at Connyland Zoo die from heroin substitute? Retrieved 2012, from digital journal: http://digitaljournal.com/article/324384
Lendon, B. (2012, May 7). Report: Dolphins died of drug overdose after rave. Retrieved 2012, from CNN: http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/07/report-dolphins-died-of-drug-overdose-after-rave/
Wikipedia. (2012, May 8). Buprenorphine . Retrieved 2012, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buprenorphine
By Emily F.
Filed under: Uncategorized · Tags: Addiction, Buprenex, Butrans, cocaine, Connyland Zoo, Connyland Zoo in Switzerland, dolphins, drug addicts, Drug Overdose, Heroin, heroin substitute, Norspan, overdose, pain control, raves, Suboxone, Subutex, synthetic opiate, Temgesic