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Is wildlife fertility control always humane?

Hampton, J.O., Hyndman, T.H., Barnes, A. and Collins, T. (2015) Is wildlife fertility control always humane? Animals, 5 (4). pp. 1047-1071.

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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.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI)
Copyright: © 2015 by the authors
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