NDRI experts pin hopes on cloning to conserve wildlife

Following success in standardisation of cloning technique, scientists at the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) here hope that its indigenously developed advance procedure may be used to prepare clones of endangered wildlife species, including tiger and lion.

NDRI had claimed to make a breakthrough in cloning when a domestic Murrah buffalo calf was born on September 6. It was for the first time in the world that a calf was born with ditto genetic qualities of its mother, whose cells were used in the experiment.

Moreover, the central institute is already undertaking a project to clone "ban bhainsa" or the wild buffalo and NDRI scientists have succeeded in forming wild buffalo's embryo.

Last year, the Chhattisgarh government had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the NDRI and sanctioned a sum of `85 lakh to make one clone of "ban bhainsa", a native species and state animal of the central Indian state.

"It is for the first time in India that cloning is being used for any wildlife conservation project. After years of experimentation, we have standardised cloning technique and it may be seen as a viable option to preserve threatened wild animals," Dr MS Chauhan, one of the key scientists behind NDRI's cloning team told Hindustan Times.

He said that the cloning success of wild buffalo would further boost the scope of wildlife conservation by cloning.

The Supreme Court had directed the Chhattisgarh government to look for scientific option of cloning to protect the wild buffaloes.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), wild buffalo is on the Red List or the extremely endangered species.

It is also a Schedule-I animal under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

"The Chhattisgarh wildlife authorities have a herd of seven male and only one female member of the endangered species. These animals are kept in a protected Udanti forest area spreading in about 40-km radius. We are experimenting by using somatic cells from the ear of the mother donor and hope to get best results," he said.

Dr SK Singla, principal investigator of the project and a senior animal biotechnologist of NDRI, said that cloning a wild species was not a simple project.

He said studies confirmed that chromosomes of domestic and wild buffaloes were almost same and the experience at the NDRI would help in the project.

"Only a few wild buffaloes are left in the Udanti forest of Chhattisgarh. The wild animals do not allow us to take body samples for cloning task and we have to be extremely careful," he added.


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