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Contraception project update

In August 2014 the Meta-population Advisory Committee (MAC) endorsed the use of contraceptive implants as a form of population control in female Tasmanian devils. The project is continuing in 2015 with the aim of assessing the effectiveness of contraception implants in female Tasmanian devils in Free Range Enclosures (FREs) and on Maria Island. The long-term aim is to develop a standard operating procedure for the management of breeding within the Insurance and introduced populations, especially in free-living populations in which there is no other way to control which animals breed.

As one female in the pilot study had shown signs of a third oestrous a second project trialling different dosage rates was recommended for 2015.

In January 2015, a project commenced which was to assess three areas:

·    Dosage rate trials – whether or not we should be using a high or low dose of the contraception implants. This is done through a Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH)  challenge trials

·    Effectiveness of contraception in the FREs and if there are any impacts on behaviour

·    Effectiveness of contraception as a form of population management on Maria Island

The preliminary results of the contraception work are showing that it is an effective management tool for females in FREs and on Maria Island.

The final results of the 2015 contraception study, including the GnRH challenges, will be presented to the MAC at the December 2015 meeting.

The project team includes Holly Cope, a PhD student at the Veterinary Faculty, University of Sydney under the supervision of Dr Catherine Herbert and Dr Carolyn Hogg. Holly is conducting the GnRH challenges, in collaboration with the STDP and two contract vets Alex Kreiss and Wei Yeen-Yap. Holly is also conducting the faecal hormone analysis and the assessment of behavioural changes in contracepted animals with the assistance of the STDP team members Karen Fagg, David Schaap and Phil Wise.

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