Sanjay Gandhi National Park Initiates DNA Mapping Project for Big Cats

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In one of its most ambitious project, the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) along with Thane territorial department has decided to initiate DNA profiling of leopards of Mumbai- a project under which it plans to create scientific database of individual leopards.journalban

The female leopard that was rescued after it entered the pre-school at Sher-e-Punjab colony, Andheri east and was released back in its habitat on December 12, became the first big cat from Mumbai under this project to undergo DNA fingerprinting.

DNA profiling essentially is a technique by which individuals can be identified and compared from their respective DNA profiles and experts believe it will certainly pave way for effective scientific management of wildlife as well as managing the rising human-leopard conflict in a better manner.

Dr Shailesh Pethe, Veterinary Officer, SGNP who triggered the idea of DNA mapping said,“The big cat was not only micro-chipped (a tiny chip bearing a distinct number is inserted in the skin that can be read using a device and helps in identification) but we also collected her blood sample for DNA, which will be sent to Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB). Apart from this we also took photographs of her right and left flank and all these data will be compiled together and made into records for every single leopard in the future.”

PeerscientistPethe explained that for instance if this leopard were ever to become a problem animal the forest department would be able to scientifically identify it immediately after trapping without the fear of having trapped a wrong and innocent leopard. “We will also be able to ascertain whether a leopard skin seized anywhere in the country belonged to a leopard from Mumbai by simply matching our DNA database and the DNA analysis report of the hair from the skin. However for all this to be possible we will need the DNA profile of ma of leopards,” he said.

Dr Jitendra Ramgaonkar, Deputy Conservator of Forest (DCF), Thane said that they have decided to conduct similar profiling for every leopard, which will henceforth be rescued. “We have to use all the scientific tools available for better wildlife management practices. While its obvious that we can only collect blood samples for DNA extraction of those leopards that are rescued for others we are planning to use scat or hair follicles for sampling in case a leopard is found visiting human dominated areas,” he said adding that though having a DNA profile of every leopard of Mumbai might take time it was extremely important that a beginning has been made.

Source & Credits: DNAIndia

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