The pain and confusion experienced by chimpanzees and other animals recovering from anesthesia is an often-overlooked trauma.
Former caregiver Nancy Megna relates two of her first-hand experiences:
It is very difficult to witness a chimpanzee waking up from Ketamine tranquilization. They flail around in the cage, banging their heads and their bodies. Some even hallucinate and scream. One hot summer night I was working while Nardo, an adult male chimpanzee was having trouble waking up from anesthesia. His temperature soared. There was no air conditioning in the units. They put a big fan in front of his cage. He had waited much of the day for his turn to be knocked down so he had not been given food or water since the night before. He never woke up; he just suffered and then died.
One day some of the teenagers that had been transferred to the adult area of the lab were knocked down and kept down most of the day for a particular project. After so much Ketamine, their faces were all puffy and they were really out of it. We held them for as long as we could while they were still unable to get up. We didn’t know if they were aware of our presence, but we felt helpless and unable to comfort them in any other way.