November 24, 2013
Drugs are taken by people around the world every day, and some animals do it too.
South Australian Zoologist and filmographer Rob Morrison said a variety of animals consumed intoxicating substances.
“Certainly you would see this mainly in mammals, but I’m sure I could think of many other examples, birds, insects and so on,” Professor Morrison said.
One example of an animal taking an intoxicating substance was Charlie the Chimpanzee from Johannesburg.
After being offered cigarettes by tourists, Charlie stole one from a tourist who thought it would be comic to light it for him.
Charlie then took up chain smoking and did not quit until the day he died.
Given the health impacts of smoking, it is ironic that Charlie lived to 52, 10 years longer then the average life expectancy of his species.
Adelaide-based animal behaviourist Carla Litchfield said it was not uncommon to see non-human primates consuming strange substances.
“Monkeys tend to take up smoking when humans offer them the substance, which is obviously not a very good thing to do,” Dr Litchfield said.
“When zoos allow monkeys to take up smoking they become addicted just like humans do, but you won’t see them going around rolling their own cigarette.
In terms of addictive properties they will be just like us.
“Each animal will be affected differently based on personality and things like that.”
Perth-based animal psychologist Garth Jennens said dogs often developed a taste for beer.
“… if the owner gives the [dog] beer or somehow it gets gets into it, they can then develop an affinity for it and even go as far as actively seeking it out,” Dr Jennens said.
“Although you’d like to hope access to these things would be limited, it’s not always the case.”
Dr Jennens said drunk dogs acted just like drunk humans.
“They won’t be able to keep their feet,” he said.
“They will bump into things and generally act strange.”
Animals that become intoxicated in one way or another can also cause serious amounts of damage.
Farmers in Tasmania have reported wallabies becoming high after eating poppy plants that are grown for opium used by pharmaceutical companies.
The animals then run around aimlessly in the field destroying produce and fences and making crop circles.
Jess Beven works at a wildlife park in Tasmania and says this definitely is not a myth.
“I come from a poppy growing background and we’d always see wallabies jumping out [of the fields] everywhere,” Ms Beven said.
“Wallabies will source what they can and if a poppy field is close, they’ll eat [poppies].
“They can be very selective with what they eat so it’s entirely possible they enjoy poppies.”