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1 December 2013 LACK OF SPATIAL AND BEHAVIORAL RESPONSES TO IMMUNOCONTRACEPTION APPLICATION IN AFRICAN ELEPHANTS (LOXODONTA AFRICANA)
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Abstract

Opinions are divided as to whether human intervention to control elephant (Loxodonta africana) population growth is desirable, partly because of elephant welfare concerns. Female contraception through immunization with porcine zona pellucida (PZP) proteins is viable. The effects of sustained use and application of the PZP vaccine on elephant behavioral and spatial responses were examined by evaluating herd ranging, fission–fusion dynamics, association patterns, and reproductive and sexual behaviors. Minimal change was anticipated as a result of long calf dependence on and association with cows, a reduced but not indefinite 0% growth rate and the known mechanism of action of PZP vaccines, and minimal expected change in resource requirements necessitating behavioral or spatial use adaptations. Although behavioral effects identified in previous hormonal contraceptive trials were evident, it was demonstrated that immunocontraception caused no prolonged behavioral, social, or spatial changes over the 11-yr study period. Individually identified elephants were monitored from 1999 to 2011. Minimal, short-term social disruption, with temporary changes to the herds' core ranges, was observed during the annual treatment events, particularly in the first three treatment years, when vaccinations were conducted exclusively from the ground. Thereafter, when vaccinations were conducted aerially, minor disruptions were confined to the morning of administration only. Despite sustained treatments resulting in demographic changes of fewer calves being born, treatments did not alter spatial range use, and no adverse interherd–intraherd relations were observed. Similarly, resource requirements did not change as calving still occurred, although in fewer numbers. It was concluded that PZP immunocontraception has no detectable behavioral or social consequences in elephants over the course of 11 yr, providing a convincing argument for the use of sustained immunocontraception in the medium to long term as an important tool for elephant management. Behavioral consequences of alternative management approaches should all receive similar scrutiny to enable managers to make informed decisions when weighing management interventions.

Copyright 2013 by American Association of Zoo Veterinarians
Audrey K. Delsink, Jay Kirkpatrick, JJ. van Altena, Henk J. Bertschinger, Sam M. Ferreira, and Robert Slotow "LACK OF SPATIAL AND BEHAVIORAL RESPONSES TO IMMUNOCONTRACEPTION APPLICATION IN AFRICAN ELEPHANTS (LOXODONTA AFRICANA)," Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 44(4s), (1 December 2013). https://doi.org/10.1638/1042-7260-44.4S.S52
Received: 20 September 2012; Published: 1 December 2013
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