Today, I’ve turned the blog space over to my colleague, Stephanie Boyles Griffin, Senior Scientist in the HSUS’s Wildlife Protection Department, to relay some news about an important conference concerning non-lethal wildlife management taking place in Montana this week. The gathering is focused on advancing the use of humane, non-lethal and sustainable approaches to resolving human-wildlife conflicts around the world. There is growing public demand for wildlife managers to move away from traditional, inhumane lethal control methods and towards more effective, humane, non-lethal methods to address conflicts and promote coexistence with wildlife. In her capacity as the Science & Policy Director for the Botstiber Institute for Wildlife Fertility Control, a partnership between the HSUS and the Dietrich W. Botstiber Foundation, Stephanie’s the right person to provide an update.

“Greetings from Big Sky Country, and Billings, Montana, where, with colleagues from the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International, I’m participating in the inaugural PZP Immunocontraception Conference. The three-day event has been organized by the Montana-based Science and Conservation Center (SCC), and it’s sponsored by the Botstiber Institute for Wildlife Fertility Control and Zoo Montana. There are more than 100 representatives and delegates from government agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, non-governmental organizations, tribal communities, sanctuaries and universities in attendance.

The majority of them are currently using the immunocontraception vaccine Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) as a humane, non-lethal and sustainable way to manage wildlife populations at sites and locations around the world.

The development of PZP as a wildlife management tool was born out of a growing shift in the way we interact with the natural world. Urbanization, development and human population growth have caused real or perceived conflicts between humans and wildlife to grow exponentially throughout the world, and as a result, each year, millions of wild animals are killed. Traditional approaches attempting to address such conflicts have focused primarily on institutionalized, cruel and lethal management methods, including the use of firearms, archery, body-gripping traps, snares, toxicants, spears and drowning.

The HSUS, and its affiliates, believe that fertility control offers a humane, non-lethal alternative to the lethal management of wildlife, and since the late 1980s, we have been working with the SCC, researchers, federal, state and local agencies, and other NGOs to develop the PZP vaccine into a safe, effective and practical tool for the humane management of wildlife populations globally. These wildlife fertility control practitioners are currently working on improving field techniques, demonstrating the effectiveness of immunocontraception in the field, refining the vaccine manufacturing process and developing training standards. To that end, the conference has featured presentations from HSUS and HSI staff members and partners about ongoing research to advance the use of PZP as a humane and sustainable wildlife management tool.

Audrey Delsink, Wildlife Director of HSI-Africa, presented on HSI’s contributions to the management of the African elephant populations with PZP in South Africa, focusing on the benchmark program in the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve (GMPGR). JJ van Altena, HSI-Africa’s Immunocontraception Implementation Specialist, discussed various field methodologies for using PZP to manage elephants in South Africa. Kali Pereira, Senior Wildlife Field Manager in the HSUS’s Wildlife Protection Department, shared field perspectives on the challenges associated with administering PZP and PZP-22 to white-tailed deer in urban and suburban landscapes in the U.S. Grace Kahler, Wildlife Field Manager in the HSUS’s Wildlife Protection Department, shared highlights of the Platero Project, a four-year pilot project being conducted by the HSUS in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to study the feasibility and logistics of applying PZP to a herd of wild burros in northwestern Arizona. Dr. Harm HogenEsch, a Professor and Associate Dean in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University, and a valuable partner in our efforts, presented on the Next Generation PZP Project—a study designed to develop a longer-acting, replicable and cost-efficient PZP vaccine formulation.

The SCC, a pioneering force in this important work for more than a quarter century, has done an extraordinary job of organizing the conference. The momentum building toward expanded acceptance and use of PZP has been palpable at this event, and I’m excited to think about the possibilities for enhancing human-wildlife coexistence in the future as a result.”