European Experiences of Contraception in Zoo Species: Development of a European Contraception Database
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2008
Susan L. Walker1, PhD; Yedra Feltrer2, DVM, MSc, MRCVS; Melanie Gage3; Gidona Goodman4, DVM, MSc, MRCVS; Katarina Jewgenow5, Dr habil; P. Kirsten Pullen6, MSc; Stephanie Sanderson1, MA, VetMB, MSc, MRCVS; Taina Strike2, MRCVS; Cheryl Asa7, PhD
1North of England Zoological Society, Chester Zoo, Upton by Chester, UK; 2Zoological Society of London, Regent’s Park, London, England, UK; 3Bristol Zoo Gardens, Clifton, Bristol, UK; 4University of Edinburgh, Roslin, UK; 5Leibniz-Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Germany; 6Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, Paignton, Devon, UK; 7AZA Wildlife Contraception Center, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Wildlife contraception is an important tool in our genetic and welfare management of zoo species. To maintain genetic diversity, appropriate population demographics must be retained in each sex and age class. This is achieved through highly cooperative and structured international breeding programs such as the European Endangered Species Program (EEP) and Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) Program. Contraception plays an important role in these programs by preventing over-representation of certain individuals, reducing inbreeding, and modifying generation length. Contraception is also employed to modify inappropriate sexual behaviours, reduce the need for culling of unwanted young, decrease the repetitive physiologic demands due to pregnancy on selected individuals, and ensure populations do not exceed available space within zoo collections. Although many methods of contraception are available, providing safe and effective contraception for species with highly variable reproductive physiologies is a major challenge.
In North America this challenge has been addressed by setting up a centralized source of contraceptive information and constructing a database of the efficacy of the different contraception methods. As a result, the AZA Wildlife Contraception Center (WCC) now has a database of more than 21,000 entries and has been able to produce guidelines for a variety of species. These guidelines are freely available to all on the internet (www.stlzoo.org/contraception); however, as not all North American contraception methods are available for use in the European Union, these guidelines have their limitations. European zoo veterinarians and collection managers also have considerable experience with a variety of contraceptive methods, some of which are not currently available in North America. By compiling and pooling European experiences with contraception in zoo species with that of the AZA WCC database, we can both gain from each other’s experiences.
To this end we propose to set up a European contraception group which will work in association with and compliment the AZA WCC. The European Group for Zoo Animal Contraception (EGZAC) would endeavor to gather data on use of contraceptive methods in European collections, increase awareness amongst European veterinarians, collection managers, and population managers of the most current recommendations on contraceptive use and fine tune these recommendations to best meet the specific needs of European collections.