Behavioural evaluation of a meerkat Suricata suricatta group after insertion of deslorelin contraceptive implant in the dominant female
Keywords:Herpestidae, population control, social behaviour, Suprelorin
Meerkats Suricata suricatta are animals that live in groups and have a reproductive cooperation system. Their high reproductive rate in ex-situ conditions can often be a problem for the supporting institution and, therefore, the use of an effective contraceptive method is necessary. The objective of the present study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a contraceptive implant placed only on the dominant female of a group of meerkats and its effect on stability of the behaviour and social hierarchy of the group. The alpha female received a 4.7 mg deslorelin acetate implant (Suprelorin, Virbac) in week 8, and the group’s behaviour was observed in two distinct stages: Stage 1, before implantation (first 8 weeks); and Stage 2, after implantation (between 13 and 21 weeks). There were no births in this interval, and the social hierarchy and intra-group relations remained stable. Agonistic behaviour, present in Stage 1, showed a significant reduction in Stage 2. The results show that use of a deslorelin contraceptive implant only in the dominant female was efficient for reproductive control in a meerkat group with few subordinate females. After 12 months of implantation, an ultrasound examination showed the presence of follicles in the ovaries, signalling a possible return of reproductive activity. Further studies should be performed to better understand the long-term effect of the contraceptive implant in meerkats and other species with matriarchal societies and cooperative behaviours.
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