USE OF MIDAZOLAM/PETHIDINE AND TILETAMINE/ZOLAZEPAM COMBINATIONS FOR THE CHEMICAL RESTRAINT OF LEOPARD SEALS (HYDRURGA LEPTONYX)

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Abstract

We immobilized 200–550-kg leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx) on sea ice in Prydz Bay, Antarctica (68°25′S, 77°10′E) between November 1997 and February 2000. Midazolam (0.18–0.27 mg/kg)/ pethidine (1.0–1.5 mg/kg) was administered by dart to 16 leopard seals. Unpredictable immobilization, poor airway maintenance, and our inability to fully assess the suitability of flumazenil (0.003–0.01 mg/kg), naloxone (0.01–0.013 mg/kg), and naltrexone (0.05–0.12 mg/kg) as reversal agents limited suitability of midazolam/pethidine. Tiletamine/zolazepam 1:1 (0.5–1.5 mg/kg) was, therefore, administered to 19 leopard seals. It produced faster induction (19 ± 3 min), more effective and reliable response to dose (rank correlation: rs= 0.88, n= 18), and better pulmonary ventilation and faster return of cognitive function upon recovery, in comparison to midazolam/pethidine. Best results were achieved with tiletamine/zolazepam (1.2–1.4 mg/kg) which safely immobilized seven of nine seals for 20–30 min. Entry to the water upon darting was minimized, but not eliminated, by the use of lightweight air-pressurized darts and a thorough knowledge of leopard seal behavior.

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