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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