Jason Read
Bio Science
Vol48 No 2
Feb 98
Experimenting With Birth Control

Elephants: Trimming the Herd
This research is taking place in South Africa in a wildlife park called Kruger. The experiment is to see if either one of two different methods can effect the birth control rate of elephants. This would hopefully take the place of the traditional version of birth control: culling. Elephants have managed to destroy many parts of the South African countryside by over population and have made it unlivable for many other species. Kruger Park officials say that they can only hold up to 8000 elephants and any more would unbalance the whole system. So to keep the numbers at this every year they have to kill a certain number. When this is done they prefer to cull the entire family as to make sure that one member is not left being alone. The elephants live in such a tight family that this would normally lead to death anyway. This raises a concern that contraception may lead to a generation gap in the family unit. The two teams were trying different techniques. One method was using estrogen implants in the females but this lead to the females to be constantly on heat, which means they attracted too many males and never had time to raise the young that they had before. This lead to the loss of two infants due to lack of attention. The second method proved to be the better but it will take a few more years to get solid results on the contraception for elephants.