Disentanglement of Cape fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus) with reversible medetomidinemidazolam-butorphanol
Anaesthesia in pinnipeds is considered a much higher risk than in most terrestrial mammals because of their frequent proximity to water and physiological and anatomical adaptations related to diving, which also influence their anaesthesia management. Anaesthetising and immobilising entangled seals does not allow for selection of animals that are at a safe distance from the water’s edge. Medetomidine-midazolam-butorphanol (MMB) sedation was trialled on eight entangled Cape fur seals (CFS) (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus) to determine if it was safe to use on animals that entered the water post-darting. The MMB was given at an estimated dose of 0.03 mg/kg, 0.2 mg/kg and 0.2 mg/kg, respectively, via remote darting. Sedation was reversed with intramuscular atipamezole (0.15 mg/kg) and naltrexone (0.4 mg/kg) to antagonise the effects of medetomidine and butorphanol, respectively. Moderate sedation was achieved in six animals. Six of the animals entered the water after being darted. There was a single mortality and a single animal that was too lightly sedated for capture. The preliminary results indicate that MMB produces suitable sedation for disentanglement of CFS. Additionally, MMB might be suitable for application to field-based biological research. Keywords: reversible anaesthesia; immobilisation; Cape fur seal; medetomidine; midazolam; butorphanol; disentanglement; atipamezole; naltrexone; Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus.