At the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), located in Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly district, scientists are busy analysing the DNA of an array of wild animals, from tigers to deer. It is a busy time for the team, as they are gearing up to establish a DNA bank for wildlife.
Slated to start operations by the end of this year, the DNA bank for wild animals is the first of its kind in North India.
The IVRI campus in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh. Source: Facebook
IVRI is only the second institution in the country to house such a bank for wildlife DNA records. The Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES) in Hyderabad has the only other DNA bank in India. The bank has been conceptualised by Dr. Raj Kumar Singh, director of IVRI.
Anil Kumar Sharma, principal scientist and in-charge of the Centre for Wildlife at IVRI, told The Hindu that the team has already collected 140 samples from 25 wild animals.
“We are making a baseline data of different animals. Every time we receive some identified specimen, viscera, skin or part of the body of a wild animal from either forest department or zoo, we take out the DNA,” he added.
Having a DNA bank of wild animals can be crucial for research and conservation efforts. It is also expected to keep poaching in check, and also control the cost of sending specimen over to the LaCONES facility in Hyderabad for testing.
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Over a period of one year, the IVRI has collected samples of animals such as leopards, lions, elephants, deer and rhinos. Having a DNA bank would enable scientists and conservation groups to identify species accurately, particularly so when unknown meat, hair, blood or any other samples are recovered.
DNA testing can also determine whether the animal belonged to an endangered species, and the scientists are also compiling serum samples, which can be particularly useful in identifying whether the animals may have suffered from any diseases.
Once the bank becomes fully functional, the scientists will start accepting external samples, from forest departments and conservation bodies.