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Animals 2015, 5(4), 1047-1071;

Is Wildlife Fertility Control Always Humane?

College of Veterinary Medicine, Murdoch University, 90 South Street, Murdoch 6150, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Kate Littin, Trudy Sharp and Ngaio Beausoleil
Received: 31 July 2015 / Revised: 3 October 2015 / Accepted: 14 October 2015 / Published: 21 October 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ethical and Welfare Dimensions of the Management of Unwanted Wildlife)
Full-Text   |   PDF [173 KB, uploaded 28 October 2015]   |  

Simple Summary

There are various fertility control methods (modalities) currently available that aim to reduce the abundance of problematic free-ranging mammalian wildlife. Here, we propose that dissimilarities in the mechanism of action indicate these methods produce great variation in animal welfare outcomes. We present a framework to assist managers in minimising animal welfare risks.


Investigation of fertility control techniques to reduce reproductive rates in wildlife populations has been the source of much research. Techniques targeting wildlife fertility have been diverse. Most research into fertility control methods has focused upon efficacy, with few studies rigorously assessing animal welfare beyond opportunistic anecdote. However, fertility control techniques represent several very different mechanisms of action (modalities), each with their own different animal welfare risks. We provide a review of the mechanisms of action for fertility control methods, and consider the role of manipulation of reproductive hormones (“endocrine suppression”) for the long-term ability of animals to behave normally. We consider the potential welfare costs of animal manipulation techniques that are required to administer fertility treatments, including capture, restraint, surgery and drug delivery, and the requirement for repeated administration within the lifetime of an animal. We challenge the assumption that fertility control modalities generate similar and desirable animal welfare outcomes, and we argue that knowledge of reproductive physiology and behaviour should be more adeptly applied to wild animal management decisions. We encourage wildlife managers to carefully assess long-term behavioural risks, associated animal handling techniques, and the importance of positive welfare states when selecting fertility control methods as a means of population control. View Full-Text
Keywords: behaviour; capture; endocrinology; fertility; immunocontraception; physiology; reproduction; sterilization; welfare; wildlife behaviour; capture; endocrinology; fertility; immunocontraception; physiology; reproduction; sterilization; welfare; wildlife

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Hampton, J.O.; Hyndman, T.H.; Barnes, A.; Collins, T. Is Wildlife Fertility Control Always Humane? Animals 2015, 5, 1047-1071.

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