student profile: Miss Holly Cope


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Thesis work

Thesis title: Contraception as a wildlife conservation tool

Supervisors: Peter WHITE , Catherine HERBERT , Carolyn HOGG

Thesis abstract:

Captive breeding plays an increasingly significant role in conservation programs, providing program managers with the challenge of preventing over-crowding, whilst also maintaining genetic and behavioural integrity of the population. This thesis assesses a new approach to the reproductive and genetic management of individuals in conservation programs by using contraception. Suprelorin contraceptive implants containing the GnRH agonist deslorelin were used to manage reproduction in two conservation-dependent species, the Tasmanian devil and burrowing bettong. A Tasmanian devil insurance population was established in 2006 due to the threat of devil tumour disease (DFTD). Female devils were selected for contraception in 2015 and 2017 based on their genetic profile with the aim of equalizing founder representation and maximising the genetic benefit per breeding event. Suprelorin implants were ineffective in male devils. Intensive dose-response trials in female devils demonstrated that a 4.7mg implant achieved contraception for one year, while a 9.4mg implant was effective for up to two years. Implants were trialled on female devils in free-ranging enclosures and on Maria Island, which demonstrated that treatment was reversible and had no effect on access to food, social status, movements, survival and body weight. This novel use of contraceptives therefore also enables animals to be group housed, thus reducing operational costs and maintaining wild behaviours and relationships. The 4.7 mg Suprelorin implants were also trialled as a potential tool for managing a locally overabundant burrowing bettong population at the Arid Recovery reserve. There were no negative side effects, yet efficacy could not be proven.

Selected publications

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Journals

  • Cope, H., Hogg, C., White, P., Herbert, C. (2018). A role for selective contraception of individuals in conservation. Conservation Biology, 32(3), 546-558. [More Information]
  • 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., White, P., Herbert, C. (2018). A role for selective contraception of individuals in conservation. Conservation Biology, 32(3), 546-558. [More Information]
  • 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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