The Judas technique is a method used for landscape control of feral donkeys (Equus asinus) in northern Australia. Central to the success of any Judas program is the safe, efficient, and humane attachment of the telemetry device. For feral donkeys, this involves the use of field immobilization. We examine the replacement of the current chemical capture agent, succinylcholine, with contemporary immobilization agents to achieve positive animal welfare outcomes. A combination of medetomidine and ketamine delivered by remote injection from a helicopter was used to capture 14 free-ranging feral donkeys for the fitting of telemetry collars in Western Australia in November 2010. Dose rates of 0.14 mg/kg medetomidine and 4.1 mg/kg ketamine were appropriate to immobilize animals in 9 min (±SD=3). Mean recovery time (total time in recumbency) was 21 min (±14). All animals recovered uneventfully after being administered atipamezole, a specific antagonist of medetomidine, intramuscularly at 0.35 mg/kg. Physiologic parameters were recorded during recumbency, with environment-related hyperthermia being the only abnormality recognized. No significant complications were encountered, and this drug combination represents an efficient approach to capturing wild donkeys. This new method allows a rapid, safe, cost-effective approach to the immobilization of feral donkeys for use as Judas animals. This drug combination will replace the relatively inhumane succinylcholine for the field immobilization of feral donkeys.
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Vol. 48 • No. 2