In South Africa, Where Elephants Are Fenced In, Choosing Contraception Over Culling

Fleeing the sound of a helicopter, elephants in Ithala Game Reserve run through the Pongola River Valley, on the park's northern boundary. Photograph by Michelle Riley/The Humane Society of the United States.

By Karen Lange

The elephants take off running as the helicopter banks around a hill, pushing headlong through the bush and low trees into the river valley in South Africa’s Ithala Game Reserve.

The elephants seem to be fleeing the chopper’s noisy approach as if it’s some kind of predatory beast, but, the pilot says, “They’re not really panicking—they’re quite relaxed.” It’s just reflexive running, not true terror.

As the chopper circles, they group and regroup. Some raise their trunks and wheel. It’s hard not to imagine that the price of this aerial view—of a breeding herd of mothers and daughters and pre-adolescent sons and calves hurtling along the valley floor—is their fear.

Fleeing the sound of a helicopter, elephants in Ithala Game Reserve run through the Pongola River Valley, on the park’s northern boundary. Photograph by Michelle Riley/The Humane Society of the United States.

The helicopter is giving a photographer ammunition for an article about an elephant contraceptive called PZP, which provokes an immune reaction in cows, causing them to produce antibodies that bind to the surfaces of their eggs and prevent fertilization.

A previous flight that morning had carried no one more dangerous than a veterinarian vaccinating elephant cows with the drug: green splotches of dye on their hindquarters marking where the darts hit.

Veterinarian Dave Cooper, dart gun in hand, walks toward a helicopter that will take him to vaccinate female elephants in Ithala Game Reserve with the contraceptive PZP. The park began treating its elephants in 2014. Photograph by Michelle Riley/The Humane Society of the United States.
Veterinarian Dave Cooper, dart gun in hand, walks toward a helicopter that will take him to vaccinate female elephants in Ithala Game Reserve with the contraceptive PZP. The park began treating its elephants in 2014. —> Read More

Buster the Dummy Strapped in for Mile High SpaceX Dragon Flight Test

Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of Mission Assurance at SpaceX with Jon Cowart, NASA's CCP partner manager address the press during May 1, 2015  briefing on the Pad Abort Test of SpaceX's Dragon V2 crewed spacecraft.  Credit: Julian Leek

Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of Mission Assurance at SpaceX with Jon Cowart, NASA’s CCP partner manager during May 1, 2015 press briefing on the Pad Abort Test of SpaceX’s Dragon V2 crewed spacecraft. Credit: Julian Leek

SpaceX and NASA are just days away from a crucial test of a crew capsule escape system that will save astronauts lives in the unlikely event of a launch failure with the Falcon 9 rocket.

Buster the Dummy is already strapped into his seat aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon test vehicle for what is called the Pad Abort Test, that is currently slated for Wednesday, May 6.(…)
Read the rest of Buster the Dummy Strapped in for Mile High SpaceX Dragon Flight Test (1,158 words)


© Ken Kremer for Universe Today, 2015. |
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