Dr. Mark Stetter, Director of Animal Health at Disney's™ Animal Kingdom, recognized the challenges with over-population and habitat destruction in wild elephants in southern Africa. In an attempt to bring new technologies to help resolve complex conservation issues, he came up with the concept of performing vasectomies on wild, free ranging bull elephants as an option for population management. Advances in medical technology could now be applied to elephants, resulting in effective and humane solutions that would preserve the complex family structure of wild elephants.
Dr. Stetter recruited Dr. Dean Hendrickson, Professor of Equine Surgery at Colorado State University, who is a pioneer in minimally invasive surgery using laparoscopy, to help him develop the surgical technique. This required the development of specialized equipment by the Karl Storz Veterinary Endoscopy Company. In addition to developing this surgical technique, Drs. Jeff Zuba from the San Diego Wild Animal Park and Jessica Seigel-Willot from the Smithsonian National Zoo, and Dr. Douw Grobler and JJ Van Altena, game capture experts from South Africa, developed safe anesthetic and restraint techniques for the wild elephants.
The group also developed partnerships with key individuals in southern Africa including Dr. Mark Penning, faculty members from the University of Pretoria Faculty of Veterinary Science, local veterinarians who specialize in large game capture, and game reserve and national park managers. The team has now grown to include a multinational consortium of volunteers who work together on initiatives currently focused in southern African countries.
The Elephant Population Management Program was established as a non-profit corporation in November of 2009 and achieved 501©3 tax exempt status under the United States Internal Revenue Service in May 2010.