Birth control for elephants?

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Many countries in Africa are facing the reality of declining elephant populations, these beautiful creatures are in decline due to poaching and man made changes to their habitat.

African safari holidays help to fund their conservation and well being. But in one province in South Africa numbers are actually increasing.

Surprisingly the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal has seen a major increase in the elephant population. The province is planning a birth control campaign to prevent an elephant population boom, which threatens plants and wildlife.

KwaZulu-Natal province is currently facing this unusual situation involving these large animals and a lack of resources to satisfy their massive diets.

For the last ten years the province has been running a birth control project where elephants have been controlled by injecting cows with a vaccine that forces the immune system to block sperm.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife ecologist, Catherine Hanekom said, slowing the growth rate of elephants is important.

“Slowing the growth rate will allow time to be gained to achieve other biodiversity objectives, such as land expansion, without having to cull the elephants,” she said.

100 years ago, South Africa had an elephant population barely over 100 but is now thought the population is at least 20,000.

While over population problem is at breaking point in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, it’s neighbour hosts an estimated 133,000 elephants and substantial amounts of forest have been lost due to their hefty appetites. The country of 2-million people has the highest elephant to people ratio in Africa, at one elephant for every 14 people.

Adult elephants can consume as much as 600 pounds of food per day. Most of the South African elephants are fenced in reserves.