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Reprod Suppl. 2002;60:117-24.

Field applications of immunocontraception in African elephants (Loxodonta africana).

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  • 1Makalali Private Game Reserve, Hoedspruit, Northern Province, RSA.


The primary aim of the Makalali elephant immunocontraception programme is to test the efficacy of porcine zona pellucida (PZP) vaccine for practical population control of elephants in small, enclosed reserves, with the goal of stabilizing the current growth rate and reducing it to the 5-10% per annum displayed currently in the Kruger National Park. A secondary aim is to test the hypothesis that PZP treatment does not affect patterns of elephant social behaviour. Eighteen sexually mature cows (age > 12 years) were vaccinated in May 2000 using remote darts. Behavioural observations before, during and after vaccination included noting the activity of individual animals every minute for 15 min. No changes in general behaviour patterns have been noted to date although the animals' spatial use of the reserve was erratic during the period of vaccination, indicating irregular or disturbed patterns associated with vaccination. Normality was resumed on completion of the vaccinations. No aggressive or indifferent behaviour related to nursing, calf proximity or bull-cow interactions have been noted. Ten of the females were in various stages of pregnancy when treated. Subsequently, seven of them gave birth to healthy calves and the other three females are expected to calve shortly. It is too early in the study to draw conclusions about stabilization of growth rates.

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