Authentication of species from excrement and tissue samples helps detect illegal wildlife trade

Udhagamandalam’s Government Arts College (GAC) Molecular Biology Laboratory has designed and standardized a DNA amplification technique that will allow researchers to identify species and sex of tigers and leopards from samples of scats and tissue.

The results were published in Molecular biology reports, a scientific journal recently. The authors of the article note that authenticating species from dung and tissue samples is essential for detecting illegal wildlife trade and for formulating conservation strategies.

Because the DNA in ancient tiger droppings has a high chance of degradation, very short and specific DNA sequences can be targeted to identify the species and sex of tigers and leopards, the researchers said. Previous allele-specific (gene variant) methods in species identification targeted a specific nucleotide for amplification, but GAC researchers also changed one nucleotide, resulting in precise amplification of the species and sex, making identification quick and extremely efficient.

R. Sanil, associate professor, Department of Zoology and Wildlife Biology, and one of the co-authors of the article, said the technique would allow species identification at a fraction of the cost. otherwise.

Researchers collected a total of 190 tiger and leopard excrement samples from the Nilgiris and Arignar Anna Zoological Park, including 37 samples at different stages of deterioration from the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. Using the new techniques, they were able to identify 107 samples as belonging to tigers, 74 to leopards, six as members of the Canid family, while only three were unidentifiable.

The papers were written by researchers and professors working at the GAC with the cooperation of the Tamil Nadu Forestry Department – Nittu George, PMBhavana, TTShameer, B. Ramakrishnan, R. Archana, KKKaushal, G. Mohan, M. Jyoti and R. Sanil.

KK Kaushal, MTR field director and co-author of the article, said DNA analysis was of extreme importance and that there was such an excellent analytical lab was a big advantage. for the forestry department.

B. Ramakrishnan, assistant professor at the GAC and co-author of the article, said that in the future building a DNA database of tigers in the wild could help trace crimes against wildlife. “For example, if a tiger or a leopard is poached in Tamil Nadu and found in another part of the country, we could use these techniques to identify the exact animal that was killed, its home range and other aspects, this which could further enhance the efficiency of the forestry department in combating wildlife crimes, ”Ramakrishnan said.

The director of the college, Mr. Easwaramurthi, said this insightful research is a testament to the excellent students, faculty and facilities available at the college. J. Ebanaser, head of the department of zoology and wildlife biology, said the research has strengthened the department’s skills in training students for careers in wildlife research and conservation.

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