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DNA For Conservation

Fluorescently marked DNA bands show up in the gel under the UV light post amplication  using the PCR technique for DNA sequencing. Photo Courtesy: SACON.

Tucked away in the Eastern most corner of the beautiful Western Ghats, we found ourselves the perfect location in a sleepy village close to Anaikatty. We sat in a little forested bowl as lush green mountains towered on all sides, encapsulating us. Cocooned in nature, the location could not have been more ideal!

For those who don’t know what the science of Conservation Genetics entails and its significance, let me put it in fewer and simpler jargon. Conservation Genetics basically involves studying the genes within populations to gauge the future of  these populations and then resorting to interventions (translocations or connecting populations through corridors) based on genetic analysis for the conservation and restoration of biodiversity to prevent extinction. As we all know, loss of habitat, climate change, hunting, poaching, illegal trade and human-animal conflict are among the major human-induced pressures on wildlife worldwide. This is, unbeknownst to us all, leading to loss of genetic diversity and risking extinction of species as their adaptive capacity to environmental change gets severely hampered. Genetics helps us to seek answers to the history of any given individual or population as well as provides a window into the possible future which field studies and observations can’t. This helps in creating appropriate, even customized, species-specific conservation measures. Hence the need for conservation genetics.Interesting and popular case-in-point being the timely genetic studies and analyses as part of the conservation efforts put in to save the African Cheetah population from risk of extinction. Closer home, genetic studies with a focus on tigers and leopards revealed the importance of natural forest corridors and the urgent need to protect them in India without which the risk of inbreeding and genetic bottleneck loom large.

The five-day workshop commenced on the morning of June 5, 2017. Renowned small cat biologist and Principal Scientist at SACON, Dr. Shomita Mukherjee (through and through a cat person! She even has...

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