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South African Elephants Get Given Birth Control

In the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa conservation projects to protect elephant populations have been so successful, the authorities are now working to provide birth control to their elephant population. South Africa, which had just over 100 elephants nearly a century ago, now has more than 20,000, studies have shown. While this is good news, Catherine Hanekom, an ecologist fro Ezemvelo KwaZulu Natal Wildlife, says, "Slowing the growth rate will allow time to be gained to achieve other biodiversity objectives, such as land expansion, without having to cull the elephants." The elephants receive an injection that triggers an imune system response to block sperm reception.


While in other parts of Africa the elephant populations are still at low levels due to poaching and loss of habitat in Botswana the overpopulation problem there are at least 133,000 elephants compared to a population of 2 million humans. Due to the huge population vast forests have been lost to the elephants feeding habits. An average elephant can eat up to 300kgs a day in plants, leaves and grains. As many elephants are living in fenced-off national parks and reserves vegetation can be decimated pretty quickly.

Due to being fenced-in and the removal of the opportunity to move on and migrate the South African elephant has kept breeding and eating the local vegetation. While conservation projects have helped protect the specie, natural overpopulation prevention has halted. While birth control seems like interference with nature and perhaps detrimental to conservation efforts studies have shown thevaccine is safe. The vaccine is administered by dart, with an annual booster, it is reversible and has no adverse effect on the elephant's health or behaviour.


The contraceptive is in fact seen as a positive alternative for population control. Other methods of course include culling or migrating herds far away to new land. The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International have backed the programme believing it to be ethical. Controlling populations prevents the degradation of the reserves and ensures the current elephant population has sufficient sustenance.


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