It's been a busy and exciting week at C.A.R.E.!
This week Dr. Lizanne Meiring, a South African Veterinarian and long-standing supporter of C.A.R.E. visited the centre. She came to carry out Pre-Release Veterinary Health Checks and insert contraceptive implants into some of our sexually mature baboons undergoing rehabilitation.
At C.A.R.E. we aim to prevent the captive baboons from breeding due to limited resources available to care for the charming chacmas. Our aim is to rescue baboons in need of help, rehabilitate them and then when they are ready, release them back into the wild. This is a long process; with the core of the troop needing to be adult in order to make the troop viable for release. Therefore, we have a number of sexually mature females at the centre needing protection from pregnancy. Female baboons become sexually mature in captivity anytime from about four years of age. Psychologically a four year old female chacma is still very immature, yet physically she can easily fall pregnant.
Whilst breeding within the captive troops does seem to aid with bonding the troop together, which is an essential element to a successful release, it also dilutes the care we can provide. Additionally we do not want to 'create' individuals in need of help, it is really important for us to focus our efforts on those who really need assistance. Therefore, one of our main Captive Management goals and challenges is providing contraception for all sexually mature females.
Historically, we have been using Depo-Provera injections as a birth control tool. This is the same contraceptive injection available for human females and it is effective to provide approximately two months of protection for chacma baboons. The baboon's oestrus cycle is easy to observe since they have a very obvious perineal swelling, so it makes it very easy to know that the contraceptive is effective and when they require their next dose. The issue we have with Depo-Provera is that it is time consuming; imagine having to dart 200 baboon females every two months to give them another shot of birth control. At C.A.R.E. since 2013, we have been trialling Suprelorin contraceptive implants, easily inserted under the skin like a microchip, which lasts for a minimum of 6 months.
"Suprelorin is a non-steroidal, peptide-based contraceptive implant containing the GnRH-agonist deslorelin."
The product is quite expensive and required an Import Permit from South Africa's Medicine's Control Council. After a long application process (South Africa works on "African Time"), Dr. Meiring was finally granted the permit to use the drug on C.A.R.E.'s baboons. So far we have been happy and encouraged by the results. The product comes in two dosages; 4.7mg or 9.4mg. We can only afford to purchase the smaller dose implant presently. So far it has lasted for a minimum of 6 months, an average of 9 months and in some females it has lasted 14 months. We would prefer to use the larger dose but funds are limited. With thanks to a number of people's fundraising efforts, including that of Samantha Keegan (pictured with Veterinarian Dr. Meiring), we have been able to protect at least half the females at the centre using the implants! This year we have had zero births at the centre which is a great acheivement and it is thanks to Suprelorin and all those who have donated. This has freed up the time of our key staff members too, enabling us to focus our attentions on enclosure improvements, building and most important the upcoming release of KC troop. Dr. Meiring is busy presently with Pre-Release Veterinary checks at the centre.
We would like to say a heartfelt thank you to Dr. Meiring and all those who have sponsored an implant. Also, we would like to thank World Vet Services for always supporting C.A.R.E. through supplying us with veterinary equipment, medicines, vets and nurses. This help has enabled us to stock our stunning new Veterinary Clinic sponsored by IPPL which is now up and running. If you would like to sponsor an implant it is really simple, click here to visit the Contraception Fund webpage. You will recieve a certificate and photo of the baboon you have supported.
In this photo Dusty from Blonde Shirley's troop is recieving an implant before she and the rest of her troop gets moved over to the brand-new 'semi-wild enclosure' to be integrated with the Tiny Dancer troop. The implants are particularly important for baboons in such a large enclosure as darting them regularly with Depo-Provera would be impossible.
Author ~ Samantha Dewhirst, MSc. Primate Conservation. Assisting Manager at C.A.R.E.
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