Artificial Wildlife Conservation

On the day when a court in Jodh­pur sen­tenced Bol­ly­wood actor Salman Khan to five years impris­on­ment, sci­en­tists at the Hyder­abad-based Lab­o­ra­to­ry for the Con­ser­va­tion of Endan­gered Species (LaCONES) cel­e­brat­ed a unique achieve­ment. They had suc­cess­ful­ly giv­en birth to a black buck ante­lope, named ‘Blacky’, using Arti­fi­cial Insem­i­na­tion. For Hyder­abad, which has been in the news for all the wrong rea­sons late­ly, this is at least a dif­fer­ent kind of news — espe­cial­ly since the black buck is the State ani­mal of Andhra Pradesh.

Artificial Insemination

This is report­ed­ly the world’s first fawn con­ceived through a non-sur­gi­cal, intra-vagi­nal insem­i­na­tion pro­ce­dure, for which the sci­en­tists had to col­lect 85 ejac­u­la­tions from five males and insert them in three female black­bucks, out of which one suc­cess­ful­ly gave birth to Blacky. The Gov­ern­ment gave per­mis­sion to exper­i­ment with black­bucks only after LaCONES had suc­cess­ful­ly pro­duced ‘Spot­ty’ — a com­mon spot­ted deer, in March of last year.

While LaCONES is work­ing on tech­nol­o­gy to help save endan­gered species, it is inter­est­ing to note that it was itself fac­ing a threat of extinc­tion in 2002. Pres­i­dent Abdul Kalam final­ly inau­gu­rat­ed it (PDF) in Feb 2007.

Next on the radar are endan­gered species like vul­tures and Nico­bar pigeons. (Why are such ini­tia­tives impor­tant? For e.g., vul­tures in India have declined by up to 95% in the recent past. Car­cass­es of dead ani­mals are now eat­en by rats or dogs, rather than vul­tures, that helps spread rabies. India has one of the world’s high­est rate of rabies). The sci­en­tists are ambi­tious to talk of even using the tech­nique to address the cat­a­stroph­ic decline of Indi­an tigers.

Cloning

Sci­en­tists at LacoNES are work­ing on India’s first repro­duc­tive cloning exper­i­ment using rab­bits. They have devel­oped cloned embryos so far. Trans­plant­i­ng them suc­cess­ful­ly into sur­ro­gate moth­ers is the next step. We may soon have the first Indi­an dol­ly from this lab!

Was it pure coin­ci­dence that it was the Cen­tre for Cel­lu­lar and Mol­e­c­u­lar Biol­o­gy (CCMB), the insti­tute that owns LaCONES, whose DNA analy­sis was used as evi­dence in Salman Khan’s case?

Pho­to Cred­it: Out­look Mag­a­zine

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