THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 

Search thepoisongarden.co.uk:

This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Sunday 24th July 2011

There are people who say they would rather see a vet than a doctor. This is because the first question a doctor asks is ‘What’s wrong with you?’ whereas a vet has to find out just from their knowledge of medicine.

I was reminded of this, and why I don’t agree with the sentiment, by reading about the death of a giraffe at a zoo in Tucson, Arizona.  It is believed that the animal, and another which, at the time of writing, seems to be slowly recovering, were fed oleander foliage by mistake. The story doesn’t say whether the plant was Nerium oleander or Thevetia peruviana, yellow oleander, but I suspect it was the former as this is the more common in the USA.

Though no results of a post mortem have been published, the zoo is quite certain that oleander was the culprit. The habit at the zoo, it seems, was to augment the giraffes’ regular feed with cuttings from plants in the extensive grounds. The animals’ normal keeper was away for a day and an apprentice, who clearly did not know enough about how to identify plants, fed them. On his return, the next day, the regular keeper noticed remnants of oleander leaves in the stalls. Though veterinary assistance was provided, Watoto died the next day from a heart attack. Denver, the second giraffe, had been refusing food, which for a ruminant can easily cause death, but intravenous fluids seem to have restored its appetite.

Nerium oleander

The zoo says that the apprentice, who had been employed for nearly a year, had received training in how to select trimmings to be fed to the animals and had fed the giraffes before. On this occasion, it seems that, as well as picking up vegetation from a location given by the groundkeeper, the apprentice took it upon himself to collect other material from a second site.

The zoo says it has training and protocols in place to prevent this sort of incident but, since these have failed in this case, it is looking at the option of removing all oleanders from its grounds. The zoo covers some 17 acres and, since the oleander, which is present on about one third of the perimeter, has been there since it was built 40 years ago, removing it would mean removing and replacing the perimeter fence. So far, the zoo has not estimated the substantial cost of doing this.

Given that this is the first incident in the zoo’s 40 year history, I wonder if improved procedures might be a better option. I always try and remember that money is finite and, though the zoo are talking about fundraising to cover the costs, I can’t help thinking that there must be other projects that would benefit animal welfare at the zoo more than this.

Nerium oleander

This is not the sort of incident that gets forgotten and will, I’m sure, be a central part of future staff training. Procedural changes, such as the ground staff removing all clippings from the oleanders immediately so that they are not there to be picked up, additional checks on feed about to be given to the animals and enhanced training, ought to be enough to prevent a recurrence.

Incidents of oleander poisoning are rare even in places, like parts of the Mediterranean, where oleanders are grown along roadsides as field boundaries and are available to animals in the fields or, such as horses, on the roads.

The incident that made me rethink my position in the doctor or vet debate happened in 2005 in Los Angeles. A miniature cow, called Fudgie, consumed oleander foliage from branches thrown into its field. It is thought that this was an innocent mistake by someone wishing to get rid of clippings rather than a deliberate attack. Fudgie was a favourite of the local primary school and her loss would have caused sadness for the children at the school.

Luckily for Fudgie, the vet treating her had a friend who was a toxicologist and was able to get very specific advice on the course of a case of oleander poisoning. Fudgie’s heart stopped twelve times in the course of a week but was restarted each time and, eventually, the poison left her system and she made a full recovery.

The vet and the toxicologist, apparently, developed a simple but effective method for restarting Fudgie’s heart. Whenever the animal arrested one or the other delivered a swift kick to the chest.

And that’s why I’d sooner be cared for by a doctor. If my heart stops, I’d prefer more advanced methods to be used to restart it.

 

Full Entries

2016

Tuesday 25th October 2016
Saturday 20th August 2016
Sunday 6th March 2016
Wednesday 3rd February 2016

2015

Saturday 28th November 2015
Friday 27th November 2015
Monday 17th August 2015
Wednesday 15th July 2015
Friday 26th June 2015
Thursday 25th June 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Wednesday 11th March 2015
Tuesday 3rd March 2015
Saturday 28th February 2015
Sunday 22nd February 2015

November 2014

Monday 24th November 2014
Saturday 8th November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

Wednesday 24th September 2014
Monday 1st September 2014

August 2014

Tuesday 26th August 2014
Saturday 16th August 2014
Tuesday 5th August 2014
Friday 1st August 2014

July 2014

Sunday 27th July 2014
Wednesday 23rd July 2014
Sunday 13th July 2014
Sunday 6th July 2014
Tuesday 1st July 2014

June 2014

Wednesday 25th June 2014
Tuesday 24th June 2014
Sunday 22nd June 2014
Monday 9th June 2014
Wednesday 4th June 2014

May 2014

Monday 26th May 2014
Sunday 18th May 2014
Wednesday 14th May 2014

April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014
Saturday 5th April 2014
Thursday 3rd April 2014
Tuesday 1st April 2014

March 2014

Monday 31st March 2014
Tuesday 25th March 2014
Friday 21st March 2014
Monday 17th March 2014
Sunday 16th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Thursday 6th March 2014
Wednesday 5th March 2014
Saturday 1st March 2014

February 2014

Thursday 27th February 2014
Monday 24th February 2014
Wednesday 19th February 2014
Monday 17th February 2014
Thursday 13th February 2014
Monday 4th February 2014
Monday 3rd February 2014
Saturday 1st February 2014

January 2014

Thursday 28th January 2014
Thursday 23rd January 2014
Friday 17th January 2014
Wednesday 15th January 2014
Monday 13th January 2014
Thursday 9th January 2014
Tuesday 7th January 2014
Wednesday 1st January 2014

December 2013

Monday 23rd December 2013
Friday 20th December 2013
Tuesday 17th December 2013
Friday 14th December 2013
Thursday 12th December 2013
Sunday 8th December 2013
Wednesday 4th December 2013
Sunday 1st December 2013

November 2013

Friday 29th November 2013
Wednesday 27th November 2013
Tuesday 26th November 2013
Friday 22nd November 2013
Monday 18th November 2013
Friday 15th November 2013
Thursday 14th November 2013
Sunday 10th November 2013
Thursday 7th November 2013
Wednesday 6th November 2013
Friday 1st November 2013

October 2013

Thursday 31st October 2013
Sunday 27th October 2013
Wednesday 23rd October 2013
Monday 21st October 2013
Friday 18th October 2013
Friday 11th October 2013
Wednesday 9th October 2013
Tuesday 8th October 2013
Monday 7th October 2013
Tuesday 1st October 2013

September 2013

Monday 30th September 2013
Saturday 28th September 2013
Friday 27th September 2013
Monday 23rd September 2013
Sunday 15th September 2013
Monday 9th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

August 2013

Sunday 8th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

Tuesday 27th August 2013
Sunday 25th August 2013
Monday 19th August 2013
Friday 16th August 2013
Tuesday 13th August 2013
Friday 9th August 2013
Friday 2nd August 2013
Thursday 1st August 2013

July 2013

Saturday 27th July 2013
Sunday 21st July 2013
Wednesday 17th July 2013
Monday 15th July 2013
Saturday 13th July 2013
Friday 12th July 2013
Thursday 11th July 2013
Wednesday 10th July 2013
Tuesday 9th July 2013
Saturday 6th July 2013

June 2013

Friday 28th June 2013
Tuesday 25th June 2013
Friday 21st June 2013
Thursday 20th June 2013
Wednesday 19th June 2013
Saturday 15th June 2013
Sunday 9th June 2013
Saturday 8th June 2013
Saturday 1st June 2013
 

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012 blog

June 2012 blog

May 2012 blog

April 2012 blog

March 2012 blog

February 2012 blog

January 2012 blog

December 2011 blog

November 2011 blog

October 2011 blog

September 2011 blog

August 2011 blog

July 2011 blog

June 2011 blog



IMPORTANT NOTE

The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.