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In the Beat of a Heart: Life, Energy, and the Unity of Nature
tool chest. To investigate musth, the researchers decided to manipulate elephant behavior with LSD, which seemed to send people and other animals mad. The psychiatrists teamed up with Warren Thomas, a veterinarian at Lincoln Park Zoo, to test their ideas on Tusko, the zoo’s male Asian elephant. If musth was madness, perhaps a dose of LSD would send Tusko into musth. Perhaps it would point to a “cure” for animals of their affliction. Perhaps Tusko would even produce that brown and smelly gunk.
In humans an oral dose of 0.1 milligrams of LSD induces several hours of delirium. Higher doses, of a milligram or more, have powerful physical effects, including raised blood pressure and body temperature, sweating, and dilated pupils, along with psychosis and the drug’s trademark visions. But other animals, such as cats and monkeys, seem to be much less sensitive to LSD. Relative to body weight, the dose needed to produce a similar effect in a macaque monkey or a cat was 10 or more times that needed for a human. The psychiatrists decided to inject Tusko with 0.1 milligrams of LSD for every kilogram of his body weight. Since he weighed a shade under 3 tonnes, this worked out to 297 milligrams. Compared with the doses needed to affect cats or monkeys, this amount seemed conservative. “We considered that we were unlikely to see much reaction with this dosage of LSD,” they wrote.
At 8:00 in the morning on August 3, 1962, someone at the zoo shot the 297 milligrams of LSD into Tusko’s rump with a dart from an air rifle. West, Pierce, and Thomas described what happened next in what must be one of the oddest papers ever published by the venerable American journal Science:
Tusko began trumpeting and rushing around the pen…. His restlessness appeared to increase for 3 minutes after the injection; then he stopped running and showed signs of marked incoordination. His mate (Judy, a 15-year-old female) approached him and appeared to attempt to support him. He began to sway, his hindquarters buckled, and it became increasingly difficult for him to remain upright. Five minutes after the injection he trumpeted, collapsed, fell heavily onto his right side, defecated and went into status epilepticus.
Tusko lay on his right side, shuddering, his eyes askew and pupils dilated, his left legs stretched out and his right legs curled up. His breathing was labored and his tongue, which he had bitten, had turned