student profile: Miss Holly Cope


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Thesis work

Thesis title: Reproductive and Genetic Management of Individuals within Conservation Programs: Implementing a new approach

Supervisors: Catherine HERBERT , Carolyn HOGG , Peter WHITE

Thesis abstract:

Captive breeding programs play an increasingly significant role in conservation programs, providing program managers with the challenge of preventing over-crowding of an endangered species, whilst also maintaining long term genetic and behavioural integrity of the population. This thesis aims to assess a new approach to the reproductive and genetic management of individuals in conservation programs by using contraception on selected individuals. The Suprelorin contraceptive implant, containing the GnRH agonist deslorelin, was assessed in Tasmanian devils held in intensive housing, free-range enclosures and on a semi-wild island as part of the Tasmanian devil insurance population, and in free-ranging burrowing bettongs within Arid Recovery reserve in South Australia. The Tasmanian devil insurance population was established in 2006 due to the threat of Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD). Female devils were selected for contraception based on their genetic profile with the aim of equalizing founder representation in the Tasmanian devil insurance metapopulation, prioritizing resources to the most valuable offspring, and allowing animals to be housed in groups and maintain their wild behaviours. Trials were conducted to compare the efficacy and contraceptive duration of two dosages of Suprelorin (4.7 mg and 9.4 mg), and to establish any potential side effects on body weight or general health. Suprelorin was also trialed in free-ranging enclosures and on Maria Island to determine duration of effect and any potential effects on access to food, social status, movements and body weight. Devils released on Forestier Peninsula were treated with Suprelorin to prevent genetically undesirable breeding and to assess reversibility of contraception. The desired long-term outcome of this research is to develop a valuable tool for the management of breeding within insurance and reintroduced populations. Suprelorin implants were also trialed as a potential tool for managing a locally overabundant burrowing bettong population at Arid Recovery reserve to determine the contraceptive efficacy, potential short term side effects on body weight, survival and movements, and potential feasibility for managing this population.

Selected publications

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Journals

  • Cope, H., Hogg, C., Fagg, K., Barnard, O., White, P., Herbert, C. (2018). Effects of deslorelin implants on reproduction and feeding behavior in Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) housed in free-range enclosures. Theriogenology, 107, 134-141. [More Information]

2018

  • Cope, H., Hogg, C., Fagg, K., Barnard, O., White, P., Herbert, C. (2018). Effects of deslorelin implants on reproduction and feeding behavior in Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) housed in free-range enclosures. Theriogenology, 107, 134-141. [More Information]

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