Review Article

Porcine zona pellucida vaccine immunocontraception of African elephant (Loxodonta africana) cows: A review of 22 years of research

Hendrik J. Bertschinger, Audrey Delsink, J.J. van Altena, Jay F. Kirkpatrick
Bothalia | Vol 48, No 2 | a2324 | DOI: | © 2018 Hendrik J. Bertschinger, Audrey Delsink, J.J. van Altena, Jay F. Kirkpatrick † | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 October 2017 | Published: 31 July 2018

About the author(s)

Hendrik J. Bertschinger, Department of Production Animal Studies, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Audrey Delsink, School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
J.J. van Altena, Global Supplies, Gauteng, South Africa
Jay F. Kirkpatrick, The Science and Conservation Center, Billings, United States


Background: The native porcine zona pellucida (pZP) vaccine has been successfully used for immunocontraception of wild horses, white-tailed deer and approximately 90 zoo species for more than 25 years.

Objectives: To provide proof of concept and test contraceptive efficacy of pZP in African elephants. Once completed, test the population and behavioural effects on cows in the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve (GMPGR). Following the GMPGR, test efficacy, population effects, safety and reversibility in 25 reserves with populations ranging from 9 to 700 elephants.

Method: Histological sections were reacted with anti-pZP antibodies to provide proof of concept. From 1996 to 2000, 21 and 10 cows were treated with pZP vaccine in the Kruger National Park (KNP) and monitored for pregnancy. Population effects of pZP with Freund’s adjuvants (three vaccinations in Year 1 with one annual booster) were studied on 18 cows in the GMPGR. Another six game reserves with a total of 90 cows were added to the project. The project was then expanded to include another 18 reserves.

Results: Binding of anti-pZP antibodies to elephant zona proteins was demonstrated in vitro. The KNP provided efficacy results of 56% and 80%, respectively. The contraceptive efficacy in the GMPGR and additional six reserves was 100% following calving of pregnant cows. Safety and lack of impact on social behaviour were demonstrated. In larger populations, efficacy was > 95%.

Conclusion: Contraceptive efficacy and safety of pZP vaccine could be demonstrated in small to large populations. The methodology is now being implemented in approximately 800 cows on 26 reserves across South Arica.


African elephants; cows; wild; pZP vaccine; contraception; efficacy; safety; reversibility; social behaviour; population control


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Crossref Citations

1. Serum antibody immunoreactivity and safety of native porcine and recombinant zona pellucida vaccines formulated with a non-Freund’s adjuvant in horses
Margaret B. Nolan, Martin L. Schulman, Alma E. Botha, Anne-Marie Human, Robyn Roth, Michael C. Crampton, Henk J. Bertschinger
Vaccine  vol: 37  issue: 10  first page: 1299  year: 2019  
doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2019.01.053