Guthrie, A., Strike, T., Patterson, S. et al. 2021. The past, present and future of hormonal contraceptive use in managed captive female tiger populations with a focus on the current use of deslorelin acetate. Zoo Biology 40(4), 306-319.
Tigers (Panthera tigris spp.) are endangered in the wild; ensuring sustainable insurance populations requires careful planning within zoological collections. In captive situations, contraceptives are often used to control breeding and ensure genetically viable populations that contain manageable numbers of animals; reversible contraceptives are ideal because they offer flexibility for breeding management. Historically, synthetic progestins, such as melengestrol acetate implants, were used in female tigers, but these are associated with an increased risk of reproductive pathology and subsequent infertility. Recent management advice to ex-situ collections has been to transition to the use of gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists, such as deslorelin acetate implants, which do not appear to have a similar risk of reproductive pathology but are associated with highly variable reversal times in exotic felids. Using data from 917 contraceptive records in female tigers captured by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Reproductive Management Center and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria Reproductive Management Group's joint Contraception Database and from supplementary surveys, this study reviews the changing use of contraceptives in captive female tigers. The aim was to describe the historical and current use of contraceptives and provide a comprehensive assessment on the use of deslorelin implants, including data on product protocols, efficacy, pathology, and reversibility. This study determined that current dose, frequency, reversibility, and anatomical placement sites of deslorelin implants are highly variable, indicating that specific, readily available, unified, evidence-based recommendations on the use of deslorelin would be useful for future contraceptive use in managed tiger populations.