On a far less personal scale, that is what’s happening in Africa. Government officials, tired of waiting for Trojan to develop custom condoms for elephants, have decided to shoot the beasts with sterilization darts.
A South African province home to thousands of elephants is planning a birth control campaign for the pachyderms to prevent a population explosion that could threaten plants and wildlife.
Unlike other parts of Africa where elephant stocks have dwindled to dangerously low levels due to poaching and a loss of habitat, South Africa has seen its populations steadily grow through conservation, with the country pressed for room to house the massive animals with hefty diets.
KwaZulu-Natal province, in the southeast, is looking to expand a project running for more than a decade where elephants populations have been controlled by injecting cows with a vaccine that triggers an immune system response to block sperm reception.
“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,” said Catherine Hanekom, an ecologist for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
South Africa, which had just over 100 elephants nearly a century ago, now has more than 20,000, studies said.
The overpopulation problem is the most dire in neighboring Botswana, home to at least 133,000 elephants, where vast forests have been lost to satiate their appetites. With a human population of 2 million, it has the highest elephant-to-people ratio in Africa, at one for every 14 people.
Adult elephants consume about 100 to 300 kgs (220 to 660 pounds) of food a day and most elephants in South Africa are in fenced-in reserves where vegetation could be decimated if populations grow too large.
“Because we have taken away opportunities, they don’t have the chance to remedy the overpopulation naturally as they would through migration,” said Audrey Delsink Kettles, an elephant ecologist who has been leading studies for years on contraception at Makalali Private Game Reserve.
Testing of the vaccine, administered by dart and requiring an annual booster, has been conducted at 14 small reserves. Studies have shown it is reversible, nearly 100 percent effective and has no adverse impact on elephant health or behavior, Kettles said.
Contraception is seen as a humane alternative for controlling populations over the other main options of culling herds or moving them vast distances to areas with more food.
The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International have backed the vaccine.
“Failure to control the reproduction of the species … leads to a population that exceeds the carrying capacity of the reserve and to habitat degradation,” they said in statement.
Okay, that all makes sense and you can certainly understand the local frustration. Yes, elephants are noble and wonderful animals, but they are also really freaking big and eat a lot. So, naturally, scientists are trying very hard to make many more of them.
You read that right. Scientists in Vienna Austria, are happily impregnating elephants artificially.
Scientists have succeeded for the first time in impregnating an elephant with frozen sperm, ultrasound pictures presented by Vienna’s Schoenbrunn Zoo showed on Tuesday.
The scan shows a 10.6-centimetre-long (4.2 inch), five-month-old elephant foetus with its trunk, legs, tail, eyes and ears clearly discernible.
The foetus, which was scanned in April, is likely now 20 cm long, the zoo said, and is due to be born to 26-year-old African elephant Tonga in or around August 2013 after a pregnancy of about 630 days.
Elephants have been impregnated with fresh or refrigerated sperm in the past in an effort to protect endangered species, but frozen sperm can be transported further, and allows the female elephant to be inseminated at her most fertile time.
The sperm was taken from a sedated wild elephant in South Africa using electro ejaculation in the project known internally as “Operation Frozen Dumbo,” a zoo spokeswoman said.
It took eight months to clear customs on its way to France due to lack of an established procedure for such wares.
The project was a joint effort of Schoenbrunn Zoo, Berlin’s Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, France’s Beauval Zoo and Pittsburgh Zoo in the United States.
Both African and Asian species of elephant are endangered, especially the Asian, mainly due to poaching for meat and ivory tusks and destruction of their habitats.
Around 2,000 elephants live in zoos, and a further 15,000 Asian elephants are estimated to be kept privately, employed in the timber industry or living in temples.
“Since the survival of elephants in their natural habitat is under threat, zoos around the world are striving to preserve them,” said Schoenbrunn Zoo Director Dagmar Schratter.
“Artificial insemination with the semen of a wild bull elephant is a chance to enrich the gene pool to further species conservation,” she said, adding that there were five female elephants living in zoos to every one male.
Or ….. they could just head on down to Botswana with a tranquilizer dart or two and get all the damn elephants they want.
There, two problems solved and no animals harmed.
Oh well, no one listens to me anyway. BTW kids, this just in, Mississippi is the fattest state in the union with an entire population emulating slothful elephants.
The fattest states, based on percentage of the population who is overweight are;
West Virginia (32.4%)
Indiana (30.8%) and South Carolina (30.8%)
Kentucky (30.4%) and Texas (30.4%)
All those states have zoos too. In case they need more elephants in Europe any time soon.
Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG (FOX! Sports) every Friday around 9:10 AM.