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21 July 2023 Immunocontraception of the female African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana) in South Africa: from pipe dream to policy
A. K. Delsink, J. J. van Altena, M. L. Schulman, H. J. Bertschinger
Author Affiliations +
Abstract

Globally, African savanna elephants have been assessed as ‘endangered’. Consequently, additional threats and losses due to human–elephant conflict (HEC) could further exacerbate the species’ decline. In stark contrast, South Africa’s elephant populations are mostly confined within fenced-in reserves that impede natural processes such as migration. As ecosystem engineers, elephant population growth herein should be limited. Within South Africa, elephant management has evolved as differing wildlife philosophies from utilitarian conservation (‘nature for man’) to biocentric preservation (‘nature for nature’) and a combination thereof, have been practiced. Traditionally, both HEC and population control have been largely synonymous with lethal control, i.e. culling. However, with the increase of public or expert input to Policy, lethal control is not favoured by the public. As an alternative, immunocontraception of female African savanna elephants through non-invasive, native porcine zona pellucida (pZP) vaccinations has been employed successfully and is currently adopted in 43 elephant reserves across South Africa. Current legislation now recommends culling as the last population management resort. Newly promulgated legislation calls for wellbeing and welfare to be carefully measured in all biodiversity management decisions taken to minimise threats to biodiversity. As a keystone species, elephant is a direct driver of biodiversity change. Accordingly, and in light of these developments, all population management options, including immunocontraception, must be fully considered in South Africa’s largest national park, the Kruger.

A. K. Delsink, J. J. van Altena, M. L. Schulman, and H. J. Bertschinger "Immunocontraception of the female African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana) in South Africa: from pipe dream to policy," Wildlife Research 51(1), (21 July 2023). https://doi.org/10.1071/WR22165
Received: 1 October 2022; Accepted: 1 June 2023; Published: 21 July 2023
KEYWORDS
African elephant
coexistence
decision-making
human-elephant conflict
immunocontraception
lethal control
management
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