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The Giants of Selati Fund generating support for Selati Game Reserve’s elephant contraception campaign

The Selati Wilderness Foundation (SWF) is taking great strides to conserve the future of the elephants and the biodiversity of Selati. Through the launch of the Giants of Selati Fund, we are reaching out to our generous supporters to help us raise the funds necessary to carry out an historic elephant contraceptive operation in October. 

On 21 and 22 October, a team of expert veterinarians, pilots, ecologists, and conservation managers will come together to administer an immunocontraceptive to around 85 female elephants on Selati in an effort to slow the birth rate and preserve the health of the elephants and other species on the reserve.

We need your help!

It is going to be an intensive two-day operation requiring both aerial and ground teams, and while Saving the Survivors is providing veterinary services at minimal cost, we are appealing to the public to help us raise the additional R400,000 of which R300,000 will be used to cover the basic costs this year, and any additional amounts raised will go towards supporting any over-run costs (e.g. helicopter fuel and ground crew operations) and subsequent years’ operations. The Foundation is aiming to raise through its crowdfunding campaign on GivenGain.

We hope that by sharing how important both elephants and biodiversity are for the proper functioning of the greater ecosystem, you’ll be encouraged to help us achieve our goal.

Our land at Selati is one of many fenced reserves in South Africa providing safe havens for elephants, which – elsewhere in Africa – are able to roam free yet are persecuted by poaching on a far greater scale. Providing a home to elephants comes with the responsibility to manage the population according to what our reserve can cope with and ensuring that other species do not suffer.

At 135 elephants on 29 000 hectares, Selati is approaching its recommended carrying capacity as advised by the ecologists. We’ve given careful thought to the various methods of elephant population control and after consulting the experts, we’ve determined that the most humane, ethical, and effective way to slow down our elephant birth rate is to give our mature elephant cows a tried and tested immunocontraceptive vaccine.

How does immunocontraception work?

Immunocontraceptive vaccines cause the immune system to produce antibodies that prevent fertilization, without the side effects of hormonal contraceptives. Reproductively mature elephants will be darted with the pZP vaccine from a helicopter, which is far less invasive than approaching on the ground. A small amount of dye will be released so that we can identify which elephants have already received the vaccine, and the dart will drop off naturally so that we do not have to recover it from the elephant itself.

Any pregnant or lactating cows will be unaffected by the vaccine and are expected to give birth to healthy babies when the time comes. If any of the vaccinated elephants die of natural causes, their carcasses can fall into the natural food chain without any harm being done to other species.

After 12 to 14 months, the effects of the vaccine wear off and are reversed, so the elephants can immediately become pregnant again. If we are to implement this plan in the long term, we will need to readminister the vaccine once a year. The Giants of Selati Fund hopes to generate much needed donations to support this process on an ongoing basis.

Why are too many elephants a threat to other species?

As a keystone species, elephants will adapt throughout the seasons and feed on a wide variety of grasses, trees, fruit, seeds, and plants, at a huge consumption rate. At some point, when there are too many elephants in a closed system, plant species don’t have a chance to recover, and other species can’t compete for food and sustenance. Over time, this can change a landscape and extinguish equally as important and valuable members of an ecosystem.

Considering that elephant cows have a gestation period of 22 months and any pregnancies at the time of implementation will not be affected, we will still have over two years of new births ahead. “The ideal aim is to gradually bring the elephant birth rate down so that it equals the natural mortality rate,” says Alan du Toit, Director of SWF. Therefore, this operation needs to take place on an annual basis in order to maintain the effectiveness of the drug.

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Giants of Selati Fund

Support from members of the public during the three-day fundraiser will radically impact the efficacy of this operation and conserve the wellbeing of Selati’s elephants and its significant biodiversity.

The SWF is appealing to as many people as possible to help by donating towards the R400,000 target on GivenGain during the three days between 1st to 3rd October.
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Love Elephants as much as we do and want to help us spread the word about this campaign and the importance of managing our biodiversity?

Sign up to be a fundraiser for the Giants of Selati Campaign on GivenGain, spread the word and extend the reach of the campaign. We will supply you with all the promotional material you should need to share the message on your social platforms through our Toolkit.
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