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Evaluation of diazepam-ketamine combination for immobilization of African land tortoise (<i>Testudo graeca</i>)

VE Adetunji
J Ogunsola
OK Adeyemo


Zoo and wildlife practitioners are constantly exposed to persistent dangers during physical restraint of wild animals. Chemical immobilization in reptiles is unpredictable due to their ectothermic nature. This study aims to  determine a safe and effective anesthetic protocol for immobilization in chelonians and other reptiles. Varied doses of diazepam ketamine  combinations were administered and evaluated in 16 healthy land tortoises (Testudo graeca). The tortoises were divided into four groups (4 per group) labeled DK-1 through DK-4. DK-1 had a combination of 44mg/kg of  ketamine with 0.25mg/kg of diazepam. DK-2 had 22mg/kg of ketamine with 0.25mg/kg of diazepam. DK-3 had 44mg/kg of ketamine with  0.5mg/kg diazepam while DK-4 had 22mg/kg of ketamine with 0.5mg/kg of diazepam. Anesthetic effects were monitored to determine the duration required for partial extension of the head and limbs, full extension of limbs, and complete recovery from anesthesia. These visual inspection of partial recovery and full extension were adapted as surface and deep anaesthesia respectively in describing the depth of anaesthesia. All the time intervals were recorded in minutes, and summarized as mean and standard deviation. ANOVA was used to test for significance across the groups. Full extension of head and limbs was achieved within mean periods of 10, 15.5 and 13 minutes in DK-1, DK-3 and DK-4 respectively. Tortoises in DK-2, which were only sedated, demonstrated only surface depth of anaesthesia. Complete recovery occurred in mean periods of 128, 25, 158 (p < 0.05) and 132 minutes for groups DK-1, DK-2, DK-3, and DK-4 respectively. Diazepam-Ketamine anaesthetic cocktail provides a safe protocol for chemical restraint in tortoises. A higher dose of diazepam produced a longer duration of complete recovery.

Keywords: Anaesthesia, Diazepam, Immobilization, Ketamine, <i>Testudo graeca</i>