CCMB breakthrough in genetic inbreeding of endangered species

Hyderabad: Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) on Thursday said it has shown that preventing genetic inbreeding of highly endangered wildlife, one of the greatest challenges in wildlife conservation, could be achieved, as it has done with pygmy hogs. The miniature wild pigs, numbering a mere 300, are found only in Assam’s Manas National Park. Efforts have been on since 1996 to increase their numbers through captive breeding as part of a collaborative project with Durrell wildlife conservation trust, IUCN/SSC wild pig specialist group, Assam forest department, Union ministry of environment and forests, EcoSystems-India and Aaranyak.

Around 500 pygmy hogs have been bred till date and all those born in captivity are offspring of seven wild miniature pigs.

“One of the major challenges of long-term captive breeding programmmes is to maintain genetic diversity within a population, over several generations. The loss of genetic diversity could be because of inbreeding due to mating,” CCMB said in a news release.   

A CSIR-CCMB-LaCONES, and pygmy hog conservation programme study, led by Dr. G. Umapathy from LaCONES, which examined genetic changes in 36 captive-bred pygmy hogs across eight generations, found no overall signs of genetic inbreeding.

“This is possible due to careful selection of mating pairs that share the lowest kinship. But the recent generations show slightly increased relatedness. So, we recommend introducing a few wild individuals to the breeding pool,” Dr Umapathy said.

“This is the first such study on Indian animals in understanding the genetic effect of long-term captive breeding of endangered animals. These outcomes will guide management and optimization of breeding protocols in similar conservation breeding programmes,” according to CCMB director Dr Vinay K Nandicoori.


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