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Two Dolphins Died From Buprenorphine

on Wednesday, 09 May 2012. Posted in Breaking News, Prescription Drugs

Dolphins Killed From Opiates

Two dolphins who died a "slow, agonizing death" at a zoo after it hosted a rave could have been killed by a raver's heroin substitute. According to toxicology reports, buprenorphine was found in both animal's urine.

According to, the dolphins, Shadow and Chelmers, died within 5 days of each other at a zoo in Switzerland last November. Authorities at the park rented land near the dolphins' training pool to organizers of a weekend rave, that thousands of party-goers attended. At first glance, prosecutors considered negligence charges against the zoo, assuming antibiotics given by zoo vets were to blame for the two dolphin deaths. After more toxicology tests, buprenorphine was found in both animals' systems.

Dutch marine biologist and dolphin expert Cornelis van Elk said, "Opiates are extremely dangerous for underwater mammals and would never be used in any legitimate treatment. The reason is that dolphins are conscious breathers which means they actively decide when to come to the surface to breathe, for which they need to be awake. Even when sleeping, there is a part of the brain that automatically controls the breathing instinct in the same way as it does for people when asleep. Drugging them with opiates could well cause this part of the brain to switch off with fatal consequences."

Shadow and Chelmers died after what zoo staff called a "drawn out and painful" death. Zookeeper Nadja Gasser said, "It was horrendous. I have not been able to sleep since. When we went to start the dolphin training, we noticed the same thing that had happened to Shadow was happening with Chelmers. 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 adrenaline, but it didn't help. After an hour, the dolphin died."

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Image courtesy of Europics.

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