AZA Wildlife Contraception Center
Successful reproductive management is an integral component of sustainable AZA Animal Programs, ensuring that both the genetic and demographic goals of the population are met. AZA professionals provide the highest standards of care for the animals they manage, which includes the objective that no more animals are produced than can be properly cared for. Contraception is a proven, humane tool for animal reproductive management that allows managers to reach population goals without disrupting natural social and family groups.
The AZA Wildlife Contraception Center (WCC) began as the Contraception Advisory Group in 1989 and eventually evolved into the WCC as the need grew for a centralized facility that would collect data on contraception use. The Saint Louis Zoo serves as the home of the Center and its Director and Program Coordinator, but its advisors are spread throughout the world and include scientists, veterinarians, and animal managers with research and management expertise in wildlife contraception.
Maintaining sustainable animal collections is one of AZA’s central strategic priorities. Sustainability is reliant on successful reproductive management, which requires communication and coordination among many AZA Animal Programs. The WCC works with the Population Management Center (PMC) to assist Taxon Advisory Groups (TAGs), Species Survival Plans® (SSPs) , curators, and veterinarians by recommending taxon-specific contraceptives and dosages, and contributes this valuable information to AZA Animal Care Manuals and Regional Collection Plans. The WCC also works with commercial partners to make new contraceptives available and affordable to the zoo and aquarium community.
The WCC maintains a Contraception Database containing over 30,000 records that can be analyzed to continually update recommendations on efficacy and reversibility. The Reproductive Health Surveillance Program (RHSP), a WCC partner, studies the safety of contraceptives through comprehensive pathology examinations of reproductive tracts submitted by zoos and aquariums. The WCC also initiates and coordinates research trials of existing and promising new contraceptive methods. This research program responds to feedback received from the Annual Contraception Survey and other less formal input. Ongoing communication between the WCC and members of the AZA community is critical to research efforts as well as overall program operation.
What's more, the contraceptive research carried out in zoos and aquariums has direct applications to the management of in-situ animal populations found in National Parks and Reserves. The Science and Conservation Center at Zoo Montana has applied this technology to the management of the wild horse population of Assateague Island National Seashore under the sponsorship of the National Park Service, white-tailed deer in several states, African elephants in 15 different game parks in South Africa (to eliminate the need to legally kill them in African National Parks), water buffalo in Guam, feral burros in Virgin Islands National Park, bison on Catalina Island, and elk on Point Reyes National Seashore. In addition, and relevant to European applications, The Science and Conservation Center is involved in managing the Hortobágy National Park Przewalski’s horse population in Hungary and is providing vaccines for several hundred Danube Delta horses in Romania.
To speak with someone at, or schedule an appointment with, the WCC:
Contact Contraception Director Cheryl Asa or Coordinator Mary Agnew.