Immobilization of African buffaloes (Syncerus caffer) using etorphine–midazolam compared with etorphine–azaperone



To compare induction times and physiological effects of etorphine–azaperone with etorphine–midazolam immobilization in African buffaloes.

Study design

Randomized crossover study.


A group of 10 adult buffalo bulls (mean body weight 353 kg).


Etorphine–azaperone (treatment EA; 0.015 and 0.15 mg kg–1, respectively) and etorphine–midazolam (treatment EM; 0.015 and 0.15 mg kg–1, respectively) were administered once to buffaloes, 1 week apart. Once in sternal recumbency, buffaloes were instrumented and physiological variables recorded at 5 minute intervals, from 5 minutes to 20 minutes. Naltrexone (20 mg mg–1 etorphine dose) was administered intravenously at 40 minutes. Induction (dart placement to recumbency) and recovery (naltrexone administration to standing) times were recorded. Arterial blood samples were analysed at 5 and 20 minutes. Physiological data were compared between treatments using a general linear mixed model and reported as mean ± standard deviation. Time data were compared using Mann-Whitney U test and reported as median (interquartile range) with p ≤ 0.05.


Actual drug doses administered for etorphine, azaperone and midazolam were 0.015 ± 0.001, 0.15 ± 0.01 and 0.16 ± 0.02 mg kg–1, respectively. Induction time for treatment EA was 3.3 (3.6) minutes and not different from 3.2 (3.2) minutes for treatment EM. The overall mean arterial blood pressure was significantly lower for treatment EA (102 ± 25 mmHg) than that for treatment EM (163 ± 18 mmHg) (p < 0.001). The PaO2 for treatment EA (37 ± 12 mmHg; 5.0 ± 1.6 kPa) was not different from that for treatment EM (43 ± 8 mmHg; 5.8 ± 1.1 kPa). Recovery time was 0.8 (0.6) minutes for treatment EA and did not differ from 1.1 (0.6) minutes for treatment EM.

Conclusions and clinical relevance

Treatment EA was as effective as treatment EM for immobilization in this study. However, systemic arterial hypertension was a concern with treatment EM, and both combinations produced clinically relevant hypoxaemia. Supplemental oxygen administration is recommended with both drug combinations.