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Italy's wild boars go on the pill

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Italy's wild boars go on the pill
The wild boar population in Italy could soon be controlled by contraceptive tablets. Photo: Henry Hoffman/Flickr
11:06 CEST+02:00
They have been spotted in central Rome, inside residential courtyards and even swimming 6km off the coast of Puglia. It seems that nothing can stop the proliferation of Italy's wild boars, except maybe birth control tablets.

The tablets were pioneered by Giovanna Masso, an Italian researcher working at the Animal and Plant Health Agency in York, England – and are now set for a trial period in the Maremma national park in the scenic Tuscan hills.

The trial will use a special vaguely mushroom-shaped dispenser to issue the contraceptive pills to the boars in order to stop their relentless reproduction.

“The dispenser only recognizes the shape and size of a boars snout", Enrico Giunta, director of the Maremma National Park, told Corriere Della Sera.

So far the dispenser is being tested for its effectiveness and safety, and is just issuing food to the animals.

The results are being filmed 24/7 by the park authorities – but the trial is going well.

“We will start putting the contraceptives into the dispenser in the next couple of months,” Giunta said.

If the second phase of the trial is successful, the contraceptive pills could soon become an important new weapon in Italy's war on boars.

It is estimated that there are 400,000 boars in Tuscany alone  – twice as many as can be sustained by the region.

In light of the numbers, the region has approved a selective cull of the beasts, but this has been met with complaints by animal rights groups.

They argue that not only is hunting boars down with a pack of dogs before shooting them with a shotgun inhumane, it is also ineffective.

It has been shown that boars reproduce more aggressively following a cull and issuing permits to hunt them merely strengthens the market for their meat, which incentivises interest groups to try and keep boar numbers high.

“We need to adopt preventative measures such as sterilization instead,” Giacomo Bottinelli from the Anti-Vivisection League, Lav, told Corriere. “Like those being trialled in Maremma.”
 

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