Comparison of thiafentanil-medetomidine to etorphine-medetomidine immobilisation of impalas (Aepyceros melampus)

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 3
  • Abstract:

    Impalas (Aepyceros melampus) are increasingly valuable in the South African wildlife industry, and there is a greater need to chemically immobilise them, ideally with minimal risk. This study aimed to compare the times to recumbency and physiological effects of thiafentanilmedetomidine versus etorphine-medetomidine immobilisation. A combination of thiafentanil (2 mg) + medetomidine (2.2 mg) and etorphine (2 mg) + medetomidine (2.2 mg) was administered (to nine impalas; crossover design) via a dart. After darting, a stopwatch was started to record times to recumbency (time from darting until recumbent without attempts to stand). If apnoea was present, the impalas received one or more boluses of butorphanol (1:1 potent opioid dose). Data collection included arterial blood gas analysis and the number of butorphanol boluses. Two-sample t-tests were used to compare differences between combinations. The time to recumbency for thiafentanil-medetomidine was 12.2 (± 6.8) min and no different from 14.5 (± 5.2) min for etorphine-medetomidine (p = 0.426). The thiafentanilmedetomidine combination required more butorphanol boluses (median: 2; interquartile range: 2–3) compared to etorphine-medetomidine (median: 0; interquartile range: 0–1) (p = 0.001). Despite butorphanol treatment and resolution of apnoea, all impalas suffered hypoxaemia (PaO2 ± 44.0 mmHg). Thiafentanil-medetomidine did not immobilise impalas more rapidly than etorphine-medetomidine, and resulted in more apnoea that required rescue butorphanol boluses. Marked hypoxaemia resulted from both combinations, mainly because of right-to-left intrapulmonary shunting and not because of hypoventilation. Butorphanol and oxygen supplementation should be considered as essential rescue interventions for all impalas immobilised with these potent opioid combinations.