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Elephants Addicted To Heroin Go Clean After Rescued From Smugglers

Elephants Addicted To Heroin Go Clean After Rescued From Smugglers

Chinese conservationists are hailing victory after they managed to get four elephants addicted to heroin to go clean after Triad drug dealers gave them heroin laced bananas.

And after putting the elephants through cold turkey, the conservationists said that all four have now been allowed to rejoin wild elephant herds and have become the same as all the other members of their extended elephant families.

The elephants are used by Chinese drug gangs as heavyweight aids to get them to smuggle the drug in big quantities across the China-Myanmar border. They drug them up as it makes them easy to train and once addicted to the heroin laced bananas, the elephants quickly become desperate for the next fix and will obey the commands of the gang members.

Chen Jiming of the local Asian elephant breeding centre that has been working to help the elephants kick the habit at the Wild Elephant Valley in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, in south-west China's Yunnan Province, said: "It has been a long battle but we can safely say that they are now reintegrated into elephant society and in some cases even have families of their own."

He added "There are actually more elephants now in the wild since China made it a crime punishable by death to hunt them. But we haven't increased the penalties for people who turn them into drug addicts by feeding them heroin laced bananas. This is also an important issue that needs to be tackled."

He said that they had been allowed to use methadone to give the elephants as a substitute for heroin and had slowly reduced the amount given over the course of a year until they were declared clean.

He said: "The elephants need at least five times more that a human being would need at the start and then we slowly reduced that until they no longer needed it. But it is every bit as hard for the elephants to go through the cold turkey regime as it is for humans."

After quitting the habit, the four elephants now live in the forests of Yunnan Province in south-western China which is not only a protected area but is also home to another 250 wild Asiatic elephants.

The elephants which had been carrying drugs were seized by police on different occasions, with the first reported incident of a banana drugged elephant in in 2005. They were almost uncontrollable once they started to come off the drug, said keepers.

Conservationists adopted the same method to win the elephants off the drug as is used with humans because until then they had no experience in treating elephant drug addiction.

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