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Open Access Publications from the University of California

AZA Wildlife Contraception Center Programs


Controlling reproduction is a responsibility facing both zoo and wildlife managers, and contraception is one of their options. However, management goals and parameters affecting administration of contraceptives vary considerably for free-ranging and captive wildlife. Captive breeding programs consider the entire captive population but manage at the level of the individual. Not only must they focus on the genetic value of individual animals, but each birth results in an animal that will require resources and occupy limited space for its lifetime. Thus, captive programs dictate that contraceptive be virtually 100% effective, safe, and reversible. This contrasts with management of most free-ranging animals, where reproductive rate of the population, not each individual, is the measure of success. The other notable distinction is ease of delivery in captive populations, perhaps the greatest challenge with free-ranging animals. Captive animals are always accessible, are individually known, and can be monitored. Yet, despite these differences, zoo and wildlife biologists can benefit from collaborative efforts, especially when they target the same species. In particular, trials with captive animals can provide more definitive results than comparable studies with free-ranging animals. In addition, we all face the problems inherent in programs that represent a limited commercial market. Improved communication and exploring the potential for collaborations may accelerate our progress.

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