Wild horse birth control programme starts in Danube Delta
After over two years of negotiating with the Romanian authorities, we are now able to launch the pilot phase of the project of birth control for Letea horses, Danube Delta. The first fifteen wild mares have already been vaccinated.
Approximately 1000 wild horses are living in and around the Forest of Letea in the Danube Delta. But such a large population of horses roaming freely can actually disturb the balance of nature. This is why we have initiated a birth control programme, which is based on a scientifically proven and humane method: immunocontraception with a special vaccine.
This contraception method aims to maintain the balance of the local flora and fauna in Letea. The pioneer project is designed to give the wild horses a chance to continue living freely in the Danube Delta. This is the first time this kind of birth control programme has been applied to a population of wild animals in Europe. Our goal is to vaccinate 100 mares by the beginning of next spring.
How does the vaccine work?
The vaccine will stop the horses’ reproduction at a crucial level: fertilization of the ovum. The vaccine has no side effect on an existing foetus, but will assure that the mare will not fall pregnant at the next heat cycle. The effect of the vaccine lasts for one year and, similarly to many other vaccines, it needs to be renewed each year before the heat to continue having the contraceptive effect. The booster can be administered by dart gun, so the mares don’t have to be caught.
To inoculate the females for the first time, the mares need to be tranquillized. Once under anaesthesia, our team carries out a close medical check-up. The vets take blood samples and conduct a biopsy for further studies. Each horse receives an ear tag, so they can be identified later. At the final stage, they receive the immunocontraception vaccine.
Looking to the future
The medical protocol and research is done in close collaboration with and under the guidance of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Bucharest and the Romanian Sanitarian – Veterinarian Authority (ANSVS) and with the agreement of the local council. Recently, other institutions such as the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Cluj have joined to acquire more knowledge about the horses.
The programme is currently intended to run for three years. We will also work towards a law that clearly defines the status of this unique wild horse population and that will protect these noble animals from any cruelty.