By Kate Simmons
Dr. Dean Hendrickson goes in with his scalpel and Dr. George Wittemyer goes in with his words, but both arrive in Africa with a mission: Elephant population control.
The issues influencing numbers of elephants in Africa, a continent about three times the size of the United States, are complex. This might explain why these two are approaching the issues from very different standpoints; Wittemyer wants to boost populations, while Hendrickson is working to rein them in.
Ten years ago, Dr. Mark Stetter, now dean of College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (CVMBS) came up with the idea for the Elephant Population Management program. He was working as a vet in South Africa, and started asking what big issues folks in the States could help with. Overwhelmingly, the response was elephants.
“Some of the parks we worked at in swaziland didn’t have a tree left standing,” Stetter said.
He approached Hendrickson, then at CSU, because Hendrickson had skill and experience with minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery in horses and Stetter wanted him to develop the procedure for elephants.
The procedure takes about an hour, and allows them to get through about two to three elephants per day, according to Setter. It’s minimally invasive, with a quick recovery period, and little chance of postoperative problems.
In Kenya where Wittemyer works, the opposite problem is true. Wild elephants are unprotected and vulnerable to poachers. More....