Young Tusko an Asian elephant at Oklahoma City Zoo

Male ♂ Asian  Young Tusko at Oklahoma City Zoo

From Medical Tribune, September 3, 1962
☨ Young Tusko
ID nr:   SSP Number: 620 - 
Species: Asian elephant
Sex and age:Male ♂ 14 years old
Dead date: 1962-08-03
Death reason: killed: overdosis of LSD
Location:Oklahoma City Zoo
ArrivalOklahoma City Zoo 1961-00-00
from Atterbury Brothers Circus
Atterbury Brothers Circus 1961-00-00
from Cristiani Brothers Circus
Cristiani Brothers Circus 1958-00-00
from Diano Brothers Circus
Diano Brothers Circus 1953-00-00
from Bronx Zoo
Born:* 1948 wild
Document updated2010-09-26: 
2011-02-22: Death, SSP RE
Records about Young Tusko from Bob Cline
YOUNG TUSKO 1952 - Bronx Zoo
Male Asian 1953 - Diano Bros. Circus
1954 to 1957 - Tony Diano Exhibits
1958 - Tony Diano owns on Cristiani Bros. Circus
1959 to 1960 - Tony Diano
1961 - sold to Bob Atterbury
1961 - sold to Oklahoma Zoo
Died - 1962 at the Zoo due to drug overdose

Mystified by the new wonder drug LSD, the psychiatrist Louis Jolyon West and his colleague at the University of Oklahoma, Chester M Pierce, were looking for a new way to investigate the drug in 1962. The proposed point of the experiment was to determine whether an injection of LSD would induce "musth," a mysterious pachydermian state where elephants become violent which lasts about 2 weeks. Elephants have been known to kill their handlers when in "musth."

As previous research had suggested that high doses to LSD were needed to get perceivable effects in "lower animals," they decided to start with a 0.1 mg/kg dose of LSD for Tusko. That came to about 297 milligrams (in 5 mL of water, injected intramuscularly) of LSD for 7000 pound Tusko. The injection was delivered via a pressurized CO2 dart gun. For comparison, the threshold dosage for an effect in people is around 20-30 micrograms and a recreational 3+ hour dose would be around 100-200 micrograms.

"Tusko began trumpeting and rushing around the pen, a reaction not unlike the one he had shown the day before (during the placebo shot). However, this time 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 maintain himself upright. Five minutes after the injection he trumpeted, collapsed, fell heavily on his right side, defecated, and went into status epilepticus."West, LJ, Pierce, CM, Thomas, WD (1962) Lysergic Acid Diethylamide: Its effect on a Male Asiatic Elephant. Science, 138, 1100-1102

West and Pierce's conclusion, a staggering feat of positive thought, sums up an era's belief in the infallibility of science: "It appears that the elephant is highly sensitive to the effects of LSD - a finding which may prove to be valuable in elephant-control work in Africa."

Reference list

Koehl, D., (2020). Young Tusko, an Asian at Oklahoma City Zoo in United States. Elephant Encyclopedia, available online retrieved 27 October 2020 at (archived at the Wayback machine)

Sources used for this article is among others:

  • Bob Cline, Cheraw, South Carolina, United States.

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