Elephant vasectomy

Wed, 2007-08-01 14:08 by hcroze · Forum/category:

ATE's ever-vigilant Betsy Swart has come across a link to short video about an elephant vasectomy campaign. It seems that Disney Animal Kingdom vets are operating on bulls at South Africa's Welgevonden Game Reserve. Have a look at what the Orlando Sentinel has to report: http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/features_lifestyle_animal/2007/07/disne... . (I couldn't get the video to play, perhaps mercifully; may be a problem of bandwidth.)

Whatever next? Why am I reminded of that bad old joke about the Elephant Circumciser ("pays lousy, but you get good tips")?


Elephant vasectomy

Fri, 2011-05-06 07:37 by Johan

Elephant population management is a complex and highly emotionally charged issue. I visit East Africa at least twice a year every year and have last been in Tsavo and Amboseli n March 2011. In Southern Africa, and especially in South Africa, we do not have the luxury of " no fences" as in other African countries. To make the issue more complex, people have created a lot of smaller reserves with elephants on and all have an abundance of water. It is a common scientific fact that the only natural "regulator" of elephants is water, as we have seen recently again with the severe drought is East Africa. Scientists in Kruger National Park have instituted this management tool over the last 5 to 7 years and it seems to be working. However, in the private game reserves this is not happening as all landowners have water close to their lodges to attract game and obviously elephants. So therefore, water and food is in abundance for elephants and they increase steadily at 5 to 7 % a year. The only management tools we have are the following: GnRH vaccination of bulls, PZP vaccination of cows, vasectomy of bulls, culling, hunting and translocation. As there are already enough elephants in Southern Africa, vert few places will go for translocation. No one wants to do hunting and culling for obvious reasons. The GnRh vaccination of bulls is also relatively expensive and only lasts for 8 months approx. Some wildlife managers also does not want to use this method as they say is changes the behaviour of the bulls. That leaves PZP and vasectomies. PZP is extremely expensive and needs to be given via helicopter yearly to the same cows. At some reserves is seems that is has worked well, while in others like Tembe the managers think it did not work (whether it is the vaccine itself or it was applied incorrectly). Elephant bull vasectomies are only one tool being used currently in the entire management of elephants in Southern Africa, and especially in smaller reserves. It has an initial high cost but then absolutely no cost afterwards. It is permanent, but so is culling and hunting. Semen may be collected from these bulls before the vasectomy and kept for future use if needed. If the reserve wants an increase in calving again, all they have to do is to bring in an adult bull from Kruger or anywhere else. The complication rates with vasectomy is also extremely low - only one recorded so far after 40 bulls is limited swelling at the site. The procedure is very fast and a bull can be done in about 45 minutes. Long term studies (funded by Disney) is currently underway to record the long term population effects on these herds.
So, after all said, this is still an extremely complex issue which we do not have final answers yet. No one wants to do culling, so by employing other techniques like vasectomy, we are saving elephants and habitats.

The "Problem" is not really on the Animals' Side of the Equation

Tue, 2011-05-17 01:37 by Her Lao

Although homo sapiens LIKE to argue it is so... and some seemingly highly intelligent researchers, with multiple advance degrees, have done numerous "long term studies" on these subjects of animal population issues, concluding we have to kill X number of tigers, lions, rhinos, elephants, whales, etc. in order for the various ecosystems to sustain them, that is an extremely prejudicial and biased set of observations/studies.

Humans population has increased from around 900M at the beginning of the 1800s to very close to 7 BILLION today.

If, in around 200 years, humans population has gone up almost 7 folds, it is NO WONDER that (#1) they THINK other creatures are crowding them out and (2) the populations of other large animals have taken a nose dive in exact reverse proportions (to humans growth).

Take one large animal species we still think existing in large healthy number: the lions.

According to Craig Packer --- Professor of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of Sussex, who's been in charge of the Serengeti Lion Project since 1978 but a project that had started back in 1966 --- right now there are only about 4-6 semi-isolated areas scattered in southern and eastern Africa with sufficient prides (multiple pride with healthy genetic stock) to remain long term viable.

Breeding and inter-breeding tigers, lions, cheetahs, etc. in 50x60 sq.ft enclosures --- or even small "game reserves" --- for multiple generations would make these carnivores UNFIT genotypically and phenotypically, since all they do is just eat hormone laden domesticated animals, sit, sleep, and pace back and forth in tiny enclosures, never getting to truly utilize, test, and perfect their genetic and physical fitness against what Nature throws at them in the wild...

Nature conservation

Fri, 2011-05-06 08:22 by Hans

The sad thing is, as soon as you even begin to interfere, for example by creating artificial waterholes or by more invasive methods, you are destroying primeval nature and creating something in between that and a zoo.

For example, the moment you begin to "manage" elephants, you are also altering vegetation. In Kenya, Lake Nakuru National Park is an ugly example of that. It is fenced, has no elephants, and so its forest vegetation is decidedly unnatural and does not resemble anything naturally occurring in East Africa.

My main reason why I regularly visit East Africa and not South Africa is that East Africa still has patches of near-primeval nature.

Let us not forget that elephants, along with all other animals, have ruled Africa and other parts of the world before humans even existed. In spite of an entire lack of "intelligent" management they have not damaged or destroyed nature—they are nature.

Well said Hans

Fri, 2011-05-06 21:49 by Anna Martinsson

So true and well said Hans, with such a complex issue it is difficult to say the "right" thing but I think the elephants have their own natural cycle when it comes to re-production and to me it is far more advance then our own and if the conditions are not right the females will not be in season and be receptive. The same can not be said for us humans and we certainly do not have the same "intelligent" management of our own re-production...

Huge cost, big headlines...

Wed, 2007-08-01 14:18 by hcroze

On a more serious note, Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundation writes:

I have never seen anything so ridiculous in my life.

The vets and elephant experts amongst us will, I’m sure, have views about the actual procedure but the concept…

Why go for major surgery on bull elephants, performed in the bush (at huge cost) on a one-animal-at-a-time basis, in a genetically permanent way (all treated animals will no longer play a role in the genetics of their kind) when immunocontraception is far less invasive and creates interval breeding, thus maintaining genetic viability while controlling numbers.

By the way, when Welgevonden is described as a ‘big’ reserve…it is, in fact, about 33,000 hectares (that’s about 130 square miles) divided into 500 hectare private land parcels. This compares to the Kruger National Park which is 8,000 square miles. The reserve was established in 1993 and began importing imported 50 elephants (having none originally I believe) around 10 years ago. It now claims to have 74 (according to their website).

What is Disney up to? Seems to me more about getting headlines on the basis of what I believe to be some rather less than robust science.


Just a PR exercise, but a cruel one

Wed, 2007-08-01 15:21 by Keith

There is obviously no conservation benefit in the vasectomy approach, as it would have no influence on population size. As we well know, a single bull can mate with many females, so as long as there is one male left un-"treated" in the population, the females will get pregnant and have babies. Vets like to knock down animals and do things to them (as do a FEW researchers) and zoos, who employ vets, like to (try to) show that they are serving conservation, instead of just making money from their animal exhibits. I suspect that a lot of people in the general public will be taken in by this PR stunt, while fewer might pause to question the value of such pointless, risky and -- in the event of complications -- cruel charades.

text on elephant (or more broadly wildlife conservation)

Wed, 2007-08-01 14:43 by Herman


I wish I could respond to your very thoughtful post. I have to say I don't know enough to comment. I would like to ask, however, the above question (in the text). Can you recommend a good book which examines the issue of conservation strategies to protect elephants (good academic study with good bibliography)?

Many thanks.

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