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Tusko the Elephant – Death by LSD

Elephants are truly majestic creatures. Seeing a wild elephant up-close can be a life-changing experience. The immense power and depth of emotion these animals are capable should earn them our respect.

Unfortunately for elephants, and every other animal, we're curious little critters. Questions plague us from early childhood. They start innocuous enough, 'Why is the sky blue?' or 'What is the meaning of life?'

Eventually we as a species learned to answer the former and disregard the latter. New questions came with new knowledge. One of these questions that you might not know we've asked, is: How much acid does it take to blow an elephant's mind to the point of death?

This is the story of Tusko the Elephant, and his tragic death at the hands of a bunch of true degenerates.

1960s LSD Experimentation

The 60s were a groovy time, I've heard. Vibrations were good, and there was definitely no Cold War to worry about. This lack of the ever-present threat of imminent nuclear annihilation led to a time of unprecedented peace.

No, of course that's not what happened. Things were quite awful, and the Western youth was beginning to realize this. Counterculture movements sprang up in the 60s, and with the naivety of youth came the belief that everyone was going to work out very Peace & Love.

Few people, even today, are aware of one of the greatest conspiracies of the 20th century. MK Ultra was one of the darkest, most depraved, and utterly bizarre government programs ever admitted to the public.

Essentially the CIA believed firmly that the Communists had perfected the art of mind-control. This necessitated the creation of Capitalist mind-control to counter the 'Commies'.

Starting in the early 50s, the CIA set about testing the limits of the human mind. They used torture, mutilation, drugs, and blackmail to try to turn humans into mindless vessels. Their experiments are beyond the scope of this article, but suffice it to say, they ruined many lives and achieved very little.

One of their favorite substances was lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Albert Hoffman first discovered LSD in 1938. Seeing very little use for the substance, he set it aside for a while.

That is until he accidentally ingested some in 1943. His experience prompted him to study the substance. Soon LSD was the talk of the 'scientific' town. Word reached the CIA, and they latched onto the mind-altering effects.

Tusko's LSD experience may or may not have been part of project MK Ultra. It was, however, part of the growing LSD mania of the 60s. This mania was almost entirely created by MK Ultra's influence. Even the Hippy movement can largely be traced back to the CIA.

It is in this climate that 3 men came up with the idea of pumping a beloved elephant full of enough LSD to kill, well, and elephant.

The Tusko Experiment

Tusko was a male Indian elephant owned by the Oklahoma City Zoo. Indian elephants weigh roughly 5 tons, and stand around 10 ft (3.05 m) tall. They are smaller than their African cousins, but still considerably bigger than a human, which is what the 'scientists' were counting on.

Dr. Louis Jolyon 'Jolly' West, Dr. Chester M. Pierce, and Mr. Warren Thomas were curious fellas. They had heads full of questions and went about answering their questions in the ham-fisted way typical of their time.

You see, they had heard of a peculiar condition known as Musth. This is a periodical change that occurs in male elephants. Their behavior becomes erratic, violent, and above all else, extremely horned-up.

West, Pierce, and Thomas had not the faintest idea what musth really was. They knew it was a behavioral change that made keeping male elephants in captivity particularly tough.

While in musth, a quiet, reserved elephant can suffer from extreme aggression and mood swings. Their testosterone levels shoot up by 40–60 times the baseline. Essentially they go insane like your local roid-monkey in the gym.

The 'scientists' thought that LSD, which they knew nothing about other than it has an effect on the mind, could induce musth in an elephant. If their hypothesis proved accurate, then they could observe musth at will.

West and Pierce, being doctors, thought of only one problem. Elephants are big. They seem to be a number of times bigger than humans, maybe even thousands of times bigger. Being terrible at math, as well as their 'jobs', they decided to give Tusko 14,850 times the dose it takes to get a human messed up on LSD.

They injected Tusko with 297 mg of LSD. Apparently they knew the dose was 'a bit high'. Their reasoning was that elephants are pretty tough, and should be less sensitive to LSD than humans. This was based on nothing.

Tusko recoiled from the injection. He immediately started freaking out, trumpeting and pacing for five minutes in clear distress before collapsing. You have to assume that the imbecilic 'scientists' assumed something had gone wrong when Tusko lost control of his bowels and went into an intense seizure.

Someone had the junkie-level idea, 'Drugs got us into this, and more drugs will get us out!'. They injected Tusko with 2,800 mg of an antipsychotic drug, to no effect. Not satisfied, they then pumped him full of barbiturates.

Tusko's seizure was unaffected by the cocktail of drugs. He suffered for an hour and a half before passing away. The doctors learned that elephants die if you give them ridiculous amounts of drugs.

People tend to assume that it was the LSD that killed Tusko. Having that much LSD injected directly into his bloodstream certainly caused a seizure.

To test this, the experiment was repeated 20 years later. This time, the experimenter took into account that drugs can be dangerous, and opted to not inject an absurd dose straight into the elephant's bloodstream. Instead, Ronald K. Siegel, a researcher at UCLA, laced two elephants' water with LSD at a much lower dose.

He did actual math and decided on a dose proportional to that of a human. According to his findings, the elephants “didn't seem too upset at all”.


Dr. Louis Jolyon 'Jolly' West, Dr. Chester M. Pierce, and Mr. Warren Thomas should go down in history as incompetent, cruel, and ultimately pointless people. Tusko died for nothing.



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