JERUSALEM — Staff at Jerusalem Zoo have introduced birth control in a bid to curb a giraffe population boom.
The number of giraffes has tripled to nine in recent years, outgrowing the zoo on the edge of the city, according to officials and a 5-year-old female has been mostly to blame.
The most fertile female, Shavit, has now been injected with birth control hormones, delivered by dart, after giving birth twice in four years.
Although zoo keepers admitted the babies are cute and that female giraffes make good mothers, there just isn’t enough room for anymore. There are also concerns about inbreeding.
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The hormones injected into Shavit will prevent her from getting pregnant for at least a year. During that time she will be monitored and Jerusalem Zoo will share the information with other zoos around the world, including those in Berlin and San Diego.
“What we are using is actually a hormonal implant that we inject into the female. The hormonal activity changes and she is not supposed to be in heat," said Noam Warner of the zoo.
Warner explained how the implant is intended to “mess up” the female giraffe’s hormonal system so that the male giraffes are not interested in her. ”They won’t copulate with her and she won’t give birth,” he said.
The zoo recently moved two giraffes to a zoo in Singapore, but American and European zoos don’t want animals from Israel because of the risk of foot-and-mouth disease, and it’s difficult to transport giraffes overseas.
Other zoos also administer birth control, but dart delivery is unique, said Dr. Nili Avnimagen, the head vet for the zoo.
“It is a very short thing, almost no foreplay,” explained Warner, seemingly trying to soften the blow to the giraffes' personal life. “So, I don’t think they miss too much when they are not doing it.”
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