Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats
REVIEW

Fertility control to mitigate human–wildlife conflicts: a review

Giovanna Massei A B and Dave Cowan A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A National Wildlife Management Centre, Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Sand Hutton, York, YO26 5 LE, UK.

B Corresponding author. Email: giovanna.massei@ahvla.gsi.gov.uk

Wildlife Research 41(1) 1-21 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR13141
Submitted: 5 August 2013  Accepted: 27 February 2014   Published: 19 May 2014

Abstract

As human populations grow, conflicts with wildlife increase. Concurrently, concerns about the welfare, safety and environmental impacts of conventional lethal methods of wildlife management restrict the options available for conflict mitigation. In parallel, there is increasing interest in using fertility control to manage wildlife. The present review aimed at analysing trends in research on fertility control for wildlife, illustrating developments in fertility-control technologies and delivery methods of fertility-control agents, summarising the conclusions of empirical and theoretical studies of fertility control applied at the population level and offering criteria to guide decisions regarding the suitability of fertility control to mitigate human–wildlife conflicts. The review highlighted a growing interest in fertility control for wildlife, underpinned by increasing numbers of scientific studies. Most current practical applications of fertility control for wild mammals use injectable single-dose immunocontraceptive vaccines mainly aimed at sterilising females, although many of these vaccines are not yet commercially available. One oral avian contraceptive, nicarbazin, is commercially available in some countries. Potential new methods of remote contraceptive delivery include bacterial ghosts, virus-like particles and genetically modified transmissible and non-transmissible organisms, although none of these have yet progressed to field testing. In parallel, new species-specific delivery systems have been developed. The results of population-level studies of fertility control indicated that this approach may increase survival and affect social and spatial behaviour of treated animals, although the effects are species- and context-specific. The present studies suggested that a substantial initial effort is generally required to reduce population growth if fertility control is the sole wildlife management method. However, several empirical and field studies have demonstrated that fertility control, particularly of isolated populations, can be successfully used to limit population growth and reduce human–wildlife conflicts. In parallel, there is growing recognition of the possible synergy between fertility control and disease vaccination to optimise the maintenance of herd immunity in the management of wildlife diseases. The review provides a decision tree that can be used to determine whether fertility control should be employed to resolve specific human–wildlife conflicts. These criteria encompass public consultation, considerations about animal welfare and feasibility, evaluation of population responses, costs and sustainability.

Additional keywords: contraception, fertility inhibitor, immunocontraception, population control, wildlife management.


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