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A role for fertility control wildlife management in Australia?

  • Author(s): Bomford, Mary
  • O'Brien, Peter
  • et al.
Abstract

Increasing community awareness of the moral and animal welfare issues associated with conventional pest animal control has focussed interest on non-lethal alternatives, such as fertility control. In Australia, animal welfare organizations have proposed fertility control as a solution to pest problems with feral horses and kangaroos. Wildlife damage control achieved by non-lethal, non-toxic and humane means would have wide appeal and application. Importantly, assessments of effectiveness must focus on damage control, rather than fertility control, per se. Most tests of fertility control drugs and techniques examine effects on reproduction, rather than on population dynamics. Many tests and models have not been robust enough to allow clear conclusions about the usefulness of the technique in damage mitigation. The present role of fertility control in wildlife management in Australia is extremely limited. Its longer-term potential will depend on the successful outcome of future research, development and extension. It also requires an assessment of the economic, environmental and welfare implications of using fertility control for wildlife management. The main barrier to the use of fertility control to manage pest animals is the lack of delivery techniques suitable for widespread and abundant animals. If drugs become available that cause permanent infertility with a single dose, or if current research leads to a technique for the passive spread of anti-fertility agents via infectious organisms, the potential for population management by fertility control for some species, such as foxes, will be increased. No such drugs or techniques are currently available.

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