BENGALURU: Frequent seizures, smuggling and misuse of the drug Ketamine (a common date rape drug), that is also an important anaesthesia for immobilising big cats in conflict situations, has resulted in restriction of its import. It is misused for sexual abuse in rave parties, dance clubs and parlours.
Presently, Vetlar — that is being used for immobilisation — is of inferior quality and is lesser potent, say veterinary experts, who stress that it results in multiple dartings of the animal with serious consequences for the survival of the wildlife. Many veterinarians attached to protected areas/zoos are facing issues in darting as this drug fails to immobilise the animal with a single tranquilliser-loaded dart. Due to misuse of the Ketamine drug and failure of veterinary authorities to account for its proper usage (as it happened in Delhi zoo), the import from Troy Laboratories, Australia, was stopped.
Dr Prayag H S, senior veterinary officer (Wildlife) and Ph.D Research Scholar, says “Ketamine was misused as a date rape drug, so restrictions were imposed on its import. In fact, despite using 7 ml intravenous in a case of immobilising a gaur, it was not effective. The issue is that one has to dart an animal 3-4 times unnecessarily,” he says.
A veterinary expert from Tamil Nadu adds, “Presently, concentration of 100 mg per ml of this drug which is needed to immobilise a big animal is not available in our country and so there is a need to import it. Only 25/50 mg concentrations are available. But at this juncture, after one or two results, it is difficult to say that the drug has failed in its action. We need more experimentation and more exposure under different conditions.”
Dr Sunil Bawaskar, officer in-charge, Maharajbagh Zoo, Nagpur, opines, “We need five times the potency, that is 100mg per ml, to immobilise a big animal. Therefore, the drug that has to be used has to be imported only. Vetlar is facing issues. More dartings are required now. In fact, many vets have expressed their reservations against the potency of this drug.”
It’s high time that the Central authorities took a decision for the procurement of Ketamine for veterinary use and maybe make the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) responsible for its procurement, usage and distribution, veterinary experts feel.
As per NTCA when dealing with tigers straying to human settlements, the choice of drug for immobilisation includes the “Xylazine-Ketamine” mixture in appropriate doses. Since these drugs lack specific antidote, they have to be used carefully and the animal monitored.
One of the three most common date rape drug, Ketamine, is medically used as an animal anaesthetic. It has a high value in black market. Ketamine is manufactured under licence in AP, Gujarat and Maharashtra.