Recent events in the European exotic skin trade created a need to re-evaluate euthanasia techniques employed for reptiles in the commercial trade. A lack of studies on euthanasia of reptiles led us to evaluate different euthanasia methods in American alligators, a significant commercial reptile species.
Twenty-four captive hatched and reared American alligators with an average snout to tip of the tail length of 146.29 cm were used in this study. Six animals were randomly assigned to each of four groups: 1. spinal cord severance (CORD), 2. spinal cord severance and pithing of the brain (PITH), 3. penetrating captive bolt (PCB), 4. non-penetrating captive bolt (NPCB). An electroencephalogram (EEG) reading was obtained from each alligator at three different time points, while awake (AWAKE), in light plane of anesthesia (ANES), and upon euthanasia (POST) in order to record brain activity. The awake and euthanasia recordings were obtained 24 h after anesthesia to ensure there was no anesthetic effect on the readings.
The results of the study revealed that NPCB and PCB techniques are capable of significant depression of brain activity in American alligators beyond that of a light plane of anesthesia. The PITH procedure is also capable of depressing brain activity although the effect was not as significant. Cord severance alone did not suppress brain activity below that of a light plane of anesthesia.
In conclusion, NPCB, PCB, and PITH can be considered appropriate euthanasia techniques for American alligators. Spinal cord severance alone should be considered inappropriate for euthanasia of alligators.
We would like to thank the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for their assistance during this project.