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The intermediate-term effects of PZP immunocontraception: behavioural monitoring of the treated elephant females and associated family groups

Authors


  • Editor: Iain Gordon

    Associate Editor: Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse

Correspondence

Rob Slotow, Amarula Elephant Research Programme, School of Life Sciences, Westville Campus, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X 54001, Durban, 4000, South Africa. Tel: -27-83-681-7136; Fax: -27-31-260-2029

Email: slotow@ukzn.ac.za

Abstract

Rapidly increasing elephant populations are raising concerns, especially within enclosed conservation areas in southern Africa. Elephant immunocontraception is an effective management tool, enabling conservation managers to control elephant population growth rates, but the behavioural consequences of this intervention needs to be studied more intensively and over longer periods of time. This is especially important as the potential risk of disturbance, and the ethical concerns over the welfare of wildlife, can compromise the success of management interventions. We determined the influence of immunocontraception application on behaviour of family groups. The disruption effect of immunocontraception darting on the family groups within the population was minimal, with no significant changes found in the mobility of family groups. Analysis of family group fission and fusion indicated that family groups spent more time alone during the second year of contraception application; this could be a consequence of maturation of the relatively young population. There was no significant relationship between bulls' association with family groups and the number of oestrous females present in the group. With negligible short-term effects on the behaviour of family groups, immunocontraception may be an effective, flexible management tool. Furthermore, this study showed that monitoring and assessment of behavioural assays during active adaptive management is important to determine conservation outcomes and to ensure future management success.

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