Today, there are only about 25,600 to 32,750 Asian elephants left outside of captivity according to the World Wildlife Fund. Not only do they find themselves dying in the ivory trade, but they also find themselves in various, and unfortunate situations. One of these circumstance can be seen in the story of a young bull named Xiguang, who had once been addicted to heroin.
After traveling 930 miles from Hainan island, Xiguang is now living at a wildlife reserve in southwest China. He’s an Asian elephant just like any other, however, he did come from a very unusual past. Xiguang didn’t actually find himself on his way to the reserve until he was four years old. By then he had accomplished a task that is incredibly difficult for any human to do: breaking his addiction.
Xiguang had given up drugs when he was moved to a rehab on Hainan island. With time and patience, and much care from veterinarians and rehabilitation experts, the young elephant had been able to break the habit. It took about three years of rehab with one of those years including frequent injections of methadone (the injections started at five times the dose a human would normally take, and from there went down over the months) but eventually, Xiguanag found himself sober, and on his way to the reserve in 2008.
Humans have been doing drugs for pretty much as long as our species has been alive. But since when did elephants start taking up such a habit? Looking back to Xiguang’s youth, we can see an addiction that, even though it revolves around elephants, had been caused by animal smugglers.
Back in May of 2005, Xiguang and six other elephants had been found and rescued from drug traffickers, who were later thrown in jail. While keeping such beasts for “pets” the criminals had actually given the elephants narcotics by adding heroin into their bananas, thus causing six very large addictions.
After the smugglers were caught, the elephants were rescued, though people at the time, were unaware of their addictions. It wasn’t until they noticed how strange the animals acted that veterinarians realized there was something wrong, particularly with Xiguang, who would trumpet and cry out frequently and suffer from irritated eyes that would often stream. Eventually, withdrawal symptoms were recognized in the elephants, and that’s when they became part of the rehabilitation center.
Today, Xiguang and the other elephants are living happily in the wildlife reserve, clean of drugs.
CBS News (www.cbsnews.com)