Considering the kind of world they live in, I am not surprised that animals take their pleasures where they can get them. And if that means eating something to get an altered state of consciousness, so be it. The awful part however is when humans deliberately make animals drunk. Many monkeys (and previously bears) are forcibly fed alcohol till they become addicts…
In my garden we grow bhang, marijuana. The bees love it. I wonder if they are just taking the nectar from the flowers or whether they are there to get a feeling of well being. From reindeer to elephants, the animal kingdom is filled with animals who deliberately consume plants, bugs and other substances that offer hallucinogenic chemical highs. A reindeer’s drug of choice is the Amanita muscaria mushroom, a psychoactive red with white spots fungus which is also known as the fly agaric. According to experts, they prance around gaily and feel a sensation of flying while they trip out in the forest. Locoweed is a group of about 20 types of weed in the western United States. It grows through the winter, making it an attractive food for free-ranging horses. After they’ve tasted it a few times, they come back again and again. It’s addictive, and what’s more, it’s poisonous. Horses will literally eat themselves to death over the course of a few years. Locoweed makes them neigh and open and shut their mouths. Those that eat too much get diarrhoea and show signs of depression or paranoia. Owners detoxing horses are to keep the horse sedated to keep it from hurting itself or others.
Bees and wasps drink alcohol from fermented fruit. Drunken bees are violence-prone, anti-social and less likely to fly. The more drunk ones lie down on their backs and put their legs up. According to Animal Planet, black lemurs will gnaw on the heads of giant millipedes, even though the millipedes are poisonous. The millipedes get their heads bitten and excrete a cocktail of defensive toxins, including cyanide. These will hurt the lemur if they ingest them, but will get them high if they just rub them on their bodies. The chemicals act as a narcotic, so whenever the lemurs are stressed or bored, it’s time to get an insect buzz! Villagers in India are familiar with elephants that break into their illegal stashes of locally made brew and drink it noisily. In 2007, a squadron of nearly 40 drunken elephants uprooted telephone poles in a village in Assam after fuelling up on rice beer. In Africa, elephant groups will gather around the iboga plant, a powerful hallucinogenic. They all feed off of it and get spaced out. Since elephants are generally led by their oldest and most experienced members, they have a teaching society. The young ones will learn from the old, and in this case, they learn how to get high.
A certain type of lichen is extremely rare and very slow growing, sometimes just found on a single mountain rock in the Rocky Mountains . Despite the fact that it is dangerous to get at and contains no nutritional value, the sheep will risk life and limb to get some. Once they reach the lichen, they will rub their teeth down to the gum line to scrape off every last bit of it. Poppy farmers started noticing strangely damaged crops. Their fields of poppies had circular crush marks in them. It was wallabies. They broke into the fields, ate a lot of poppies, and then got so high that they could only hop in circles.
The drugged-out marsupials returned for the high again and again. The Australians who kill all non human species, of course shot them. Birds like jays, ravens, blackbirds, and parrots squash ants and push them into their plumage. After they’ve covered themselves with dead ants, they spin around for up to half an hour before shaking the ants off. Scientists once thought they used the formic acid that the ants secreted to clean off parasites – that is until they saw domesticated magpies roll their bugs in tobacco ash before placing them on their bodies, and guessed there was a little more to it than that. Birds as a species use a lot of different compounds, but scientists observe that individuals never change their compounds because the addiction has set in. When the marula fruits ripen in Africa, all of nature flocks to the trees. Not to eat the ripened fruit, but to let the fruit drop and ferment on the ground. Elephants, monkeys, and all kinds of mammals then feast on the fruits and fight, have sex, and then lie around drunkenly till the effect wears off. Goats enthusiastically eat coffee beans and pigeons space out after eating cannabis seeds. Jaguars hallucinate after eating a certain vine.
The acacia tree has herds of ants that protect it. Why, because it feeds them a sugary syrup. At first it was thought this syrup was just nutritional. Recently, researchers have found out that it is also severely addictive. The ants, needing to feed their addiction, will attack anything that threatens the tree, including large animals. Cats gets high eating a plant called catnip and then and running around crazily.
Considering the kind of world they live in, I am not surprised that animals take their pleasures where they can get them. And if that means eating something to get an altered state of consciousness, so be it. The awful part however is when humans deliberately make animals drunk. Many monkeys (and previously bears) are forcibly fed alcohol till they become addicts. In that awful place run by Sahara, Aamby Valley in Maharashtra, they kept two chimpanzees for many years in a small dirty cage. When I got to know and started the procedure to have them removed, they quickly made a walled enclosure which was so stupidly made, like the rest of that ghastly place that the chimps kept jumping over it. While trying to get one back, they strangled him with the rope they tied round his neck. The female was then enticed with alcohol. They regularly fed her alcohol until she was removed to Mysore Zoo where they have had to detoxify her. Aamby Valley should have been shut down years ago and its managers jailed under the Wildlife Protection Act. Perhaps it will happen one day.