Wildlife & Biodiversity

Wildlife Institute of India working on vaccine to reduce ‘vermin’ populations, awaits further funding

The immune-contraception has already been successfully used in USA, Brazil and Africa

By Shuchita Jha
Published: Tuesday 07 February 2023
Wildlife Institute of India developing PZP vaccine to control ‘vermin’ population, awaits further funding
Bihar gave the permission to cull Nilgai and wild boar in August 2022. Photo: iStock Bihar gave the permission to cull Nilgai and wild boar in August 2022. Photo: iStock

The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) is working to develop immuno-contraceptive measures for population management of species that have become problematic for humans in many parts of the country.

The new measures will be able to reduce reproduction in the species by making the female sterile. This will be done by injecting a vaccine made from a hormone derived from the ovary lining of pigs.

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) approved the 10-year research project for developing the immuno-contraception in 2016.

Nilgai antelope and wild boar have become a menace in many areas of India, destroying crops and causing human-animal conflict.

In May 2022, the forest department of Kerala gave permission for the culling of wild boar while Bihar went ahead with the same for Nilgai and wild boar in August after it was found that the two animals had become a menace for locals and were leading to destruction of life and property.

The MoEF&CC had approved a project of Rs 10.65 crore for WII, Dehradun, to put an end to this problem.

The project deals with population management of species involved in human-wildlife conflict. It includes a study on immune-contraceptive measures for population management of four species namely elephant, wild pig, Rhesus macaque and Nilgai, Ashwin Kumar Choubey, minister of state in MoEF&CC, said in response to a question in the Rajya Sabha February 2, 2023.

The reply added:

Under the study, ecological and population demographic data like number of individuals to target, time of implementation, target proportions, periodicity, safeguards and monitoring mechanism in wild was collated and modelled. Monitoring of reproductive cycle in wild conditions and population estimation methodologies were standardised. An in-house facility for conducting reproductive control trials in Rhesus macaque and wild pig or small ungulates has been established.

The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, states that the central government can “declare any wild animal other than those specified in Schedule I and Part II of Schedule II to be vermin for any area and for such period as may be specified therein and so long as such notification is in force, such wild animal shall be deemed to have been included in Schedule V.”

The answer was given as a response to a question asked by parliamentarian Prashanta Nanda regarding the development of undertaking immuno-contraceptive measures.

YV Jhala, dean and scientist at WII, explained to Down To Earth as to how the vaccine worked.

“Hormone porcine zona pellucida (PZP) is extracted from the ovary lining of pigs and then made into a PZP vaccine which is then injected into the body of the female, causing the immune system to create antibodies. The vaccine prevents fertilisation and pregnancy via an immune response in the body against its own ova,” he said.

Jhala added that the WII is awaiting funding from the government to further the project.

The PZP has been successfully used in the United States to control the population of mustangs (wild horses) and in Africa for many mammalian species, including elephants.

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