Contraception of African elephants

13Sep
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Contraception in free-ranging populations of African elephants, including at Kariega Game Reserve

The Kariega Conservation Volunteers assist the wildlife management team on the reserve with numerous conservation projects, including elephant research. We are sharing this article to further assist the volunteers to gain insights into wildlife management. Please contact our Conservation Volunteer Co-ordinator, Helena Warren via email volunteer@kariega.co.za for further information on the programme.

Kariega Elephant Baby

Porcine zona pellucida immuno-contraception of African elephants (Loxodonta Africana):  Beyond the experimental stage

In  southern  Africa  there  is  a  need  for  elephant  (Loxodonta africana)  population  control,  especially  in  small-  to  medium-sized, fenced  reserves.  The  objectives  of  this  study  were  to  investigate  the  effects  of  porcine  zona  pellucida-immunocontraception  on  the reproductive  rate as well as the safety during pregnancy of elephant cows in 7 private game  reserves in South Africa. A total of 108 individually-identified  cows  were  treated  and  monitored  for  6  years.  Primary  vaccinations  consisted  of  400  or  600  μg  porcine  zona proteins with 0.5 ml Freund’s modified complete adjuvant and boosters of 400 or 200 μg zona proteins with 0.5 ml Freund’s incomplete adjuvant. Vaccine was delivered remotely: year 1, primary plus 2 boosters 3—6 weeks apart; year 2 onwards, annual boosters. Birth of calves was monitored continually and the result expressed as a percentage of cows treated on an annual basis. During years 1 and 2, 35 (32.4%) and 22 (20.4%) calves were born, respectively. No more calves were born from year 3 onwards. One cow conceived around the time of primary vaccination and a second between the primary vaccination and first booster. Two calves died soon after birth from unrelated causes. The  remainder survived and were normal healthy calves. One hundred percent of cows passed the 4-year, 67.6% the 5-year, and 47.2% the 6-year inter-calving interval. The results show that it is possible to achieve a contraceptive efficacy of 100% in small- to medium-sized free-ranging populations of African elephants.

Authors: A. Delsink, J.F. Kirkpatrick, J.J. van Altena, M. Ahlers, T. Dickerson, D. Powrie and A. Burger

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