Ketamine and xylazine were given to 55 southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) for stomach lavaging, and to three leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx). The elephant seals showed prolonged apnoea and two of them died owing to aspiration of stomach contents. Two of the leopard seals died from unknown causes. Tiletamine and zolazepam were given to five elephant seals and one leopard seal. Two of the elephant seals and the leopard seal died from unknown causes. Xylazine alone was administered to 34 leopard seals. Sedation was poor at low dose rates (less than 1.7 mg/kg) but four of the seals given higher dose rates died owing to the aspiration of stomach contents.