63 Elephant cows on Selati Game Reserve successfully receive immunocontraception in an ongoing effort to humanely manage a growing elephant population

In mid-October, the Selati Wilderness Foundation (SWF) coordinated efforts to successfully administer an immunocontraceptive vaccine to around 63 elephant cows on the Selati Game Reserve; an operation that would not have been possible without the help of incredibly generous donors who collectively raised over R400 000 for the Giants of Selati Fund.

The SWF would like to take this opportunity to thank every organisation and individual who donated and fundraised on the Foundation’s behalf. In a matter of just three weeks, likeminded individuals and companies rallied from all over the world to raise the amount needed to cover the costs of this game-changing conservation move. In addition to local donations, contributions came in from the United States, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, and the United Kingdom, among others.

“From the generous donors and fundraisers, to the veterinary and administrative teams as well as the dedicated ground crew, each individual made a valuable contribution to a team that ultimately raised sufficient funds to cover this operation. The work was executed with professionalism and minimal undue stress on the herds,” said SWF Director, Alan du Toit.

This immense operation was carried out with precision as teams moved swiftly in and out to deliver a single drop-out dart containing the pZP vaccine. Gerry McDonald brought his expertise as the pilot flying the operation, while Dr Johan Marais, from Saving the Survivors, administered the contraceptive darts from the air.

This efficient and non-invasive method means that the elephants are darted quickly and endure no lasting effects or discomfort. A small number of reproductively mature cows were left unvaccinated. According to Dr Johan Marais, allowing for some cows to remain fertile is important for the health of the herds.

“We know elephants are highly social animals and it’s important for them to be able to bring a limited number of calves into the herd annually,” he explained.

The ultimate goal of this operation is to gradually limit the growth rate of the elephant population on Selati in order to save not only the elephants’ lives, but to conserve the biodiversity of the reserve. In order for the immunocontraceptive approach to be effective, it needs to be administered on an annual basis, and the SWF anticipates a follow-up operation to take place in September 2021.

In the wake of this momentous occasion, it is evident that the generosity of the conservation community makes an enormous difference in securing the future of wildlife and protected areas. Nearing the end of a very difficult year for people throughout the world, it is encouraging and reassuring to see support for conservation coming through on a global scale.

The elephants of Selati are safe to live their natural lives in a protected area that can now support them for a longer period of time. And in return, the reserve’s biodiversity can exist in harmony with the great, grey giants that call it home. You can continue to show your support for this ongoing conservation effort by donating via our website or raising awareness by sharing news and updates from the Selati Wilderness Foundation with your social networks.

Watch our video showing the great work done by our teams, all made possible thanks to your generous donations!

Thank you for being a part of this journey with us!

You can continue to help us spread the message to all who are passionate about and love our African Elephants!

2 Responses

  1. Well done on this operation. I’m just interested to know, how you will know which elephants not to give the booster to?

    1. Hi Brenda, thank you for your question. With the expertise of Johan Marais and his team we try and dart most of the cows that are older than 10 years. We might miss a few cows here and there. When we give the booster we will do the same. Again it is possible that we might miss one or two. However the majority of cows older than 10 years would be covered. We might have a few calves still come through, which is in essence what we would like as the aim is to slow the birth rate but we still need a few calves. Have a look at our video here for a explanation of this process: https://youtu.be/w1FrTkW7_7g

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