Reproduction, Fertility and Development Reproduction, Fertility and Development Society
Vertebrate reproductive science and technology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Non-surgical sterilisation methods may offer a sustainable solution to feral horse (Equus caballus) overpopulation management in Australia

Sally Elizabeth Hall A B , Brett Nixon A and R. John Aitken A B

A Priority Research Centre for Reproductive Science, School of Environmental and Life Sciences, Life Sciences Building, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.

B Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, Building 22, University of Canberra, University Drive South, Bruce, ACT 2617, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: sally.e.hall@uon.edu.au

Reproduction, Fertility and Development - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/RD16200
Submitted: 13 May 2016  Accepted: 9 September 2016   Published online: 5 October 2016

Abstract

Feral horses are a significant pest species in many parts of the world, contributing to land erosion, weed dispersal and the loss of native flora and fauna. There is an urgent need to modify feral horse management strategies to achieve public acceptance and long-term population control. One way to achieve this is by using non-surgical methods of sterilisation, which are suitable in the context of this mobile and long-lived species. In this review we consider the benefits of implementing novel mechanisms designed to elicit a state of permanent sterility (including redox cycling to generate oxidative stress in the gonad, random peptide phage display to target non-renewable germ cells and the generation of autoantibodies against proteins essential for conception via covalent modification) compared with that of traditional immunocontraceptive approaches. The need for a better understanding of mare folliculogenesis and conception factors, including maternal recognition of pregnancy, is also reviewed because they hold considerable potential in providing a non-surgical mechanism for sterilisation. In conclusion, the authors contend that non-surgical measures that are single shot and irreversible may provide a sustainable and effective strategy for feral horse control.

Additional keywords: fertility, immunocontraception, oxidative stress, primordial germ cells, spermatozoa.


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