Contraceptives

Published by Alex Vince on

1080 Alternatives
Alternatives to 1080: Contraceptives

Why We Need Humane Alternatives to 1080 (And What They Are)

Contraceptives

A report by the Coalition of Australians Against 1080 Poison
This report is part of a series covering a range of alternatives to 1080

But first, the urgent need for proactive policies

The management of unwanted or unwelcome wildlife is an inherently controversial topic, largely because there is no single answer. Competing values and different priorities often result in ethical dilemmas and disagreements. The resistance to researching, funding or applying new approaches to wildlife management has significantly delayed the development of sound and operational alternatives. Many of the reasons relate not to the science behind it, but a range of social, cultural and economic influences instead.

Here, we add to the first part of this report, including looking into some of the most appropriate and useful alternatives to 1080 poison currently available.

We need ethical principles, not easy band-aid answers

In 2016, twenty academics from across the world published a proposal calling for the application of 7 principles for ethical wildlife management. They explained that conflict between humans and other animals has traditionally been addressed by applying a range of practices, some more damaging and destructive than others. They noted that management programs can be targeted at native and introduced animals like, as well as at individuals and entire populations of unwanted wildlife.

A key part of the principles are community attitudes to lethal control programs. They are being increasingly questioned as “inhumane, ineffective or not based on scientific evidence“.

7 Principles
7 suggested principles for establishing ethical wildlife management systems (Dubois et al 2016)

Contraception

A range of alternatives to 1080 poison exist. Some continue to rely on applying poisons, as the first part of this report explained. Others eschew this knee-jerk dependency on chemicals and could contain answers that could change the way we interact with the wild side of the world we share with other animals. Though there are no silver bullet answers, the state of the natural world requires us to consider those which incur the least harm possible.

"From mortality control to fertility control"

Kangaroo Crosshairs
Kangaroo in the crosshairs (Jay Cronan)

The application of contraceptives stems from an understanding that relatively few wildlife populations exist that are not considered by some people to require some kind of management some of the time. It acknowledges that the public is increasingly pressing for humane alternatives to traditionally lethal control techniques, despite many laws continuing to legally require landholders to kill any unwanted animals found on their properties.

However, unlike traditional lethal options, fertility control is different in a number of important ways.

It's non-lethal. But is it ethical?

Fertility control techniques are designed to reduce reproduction rate in wild or free-living animal populations. The techniques used vary, with the majority of research focusing of efficacy. Some studies have assessed possible side effects, but to date few studies have vigorously assessed welfare implications. There is evidence that it prevents human-wildlife conflict and associated ecological damage with significant less suffering than traditional lethal techniques does, but how does it work?

How it works

Contemporary fertility control involves the application of contraceptives to either prevent ovulation, fertilisation or terminate pregnancy. It generally involves the application of chemicals, hormones or other compounds, the latest of which is known as immunocontraceptives. They can be applied in a range of ways. The most common of these are oral, surgical implants, hand-injection or remotely delivered via dart. As techniques have developed over time, innovations have led to an increase in the effectiveness of contraceptives.

Though first developed in the 1960s, it has become an increasingly popular way to control wildlife populations.

Species

Brumby
A free-living Brumby (NSW Government)

Though originally applied to wild horses, urban deer, captive exotic animals and African elephants, it has developed  in use for a broad range of species. For example, evidence suggests that it is a practical and operational method for limiting the population sizes of the following animals: cats and dogskangaroospigscamelshorsesbuffalo and deer

The table below shows the dramatic decline in calving rates in a population of free-ranging bison following contraceptive intervention.

Bison
Calving rate for free-ranging bisons post-vaccination (Duncan et al. 2017)

We need to use our money, minds and motivation on alternatives NOW

Though some sources continue to maintain that fertility control is not a feasible option for many unwanted wildlife species in Australia, this is largely due to the comparative lack of funding, research and development of it as an alternative. The Coalition supports the development of humane alternatives. We advocate for allocating equal funding for non-lethal techniques.

Our next report will cover more alternatives. For immediate access to reports like this and many more, sign up to our mailing list and get them direct in your inbox.