North India is all set to get its first DNA bank for wildlife. Scientists at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) in Bareilly are in the process of collecting DNA samples of all wild animals to set up the bank. It is expected to help in research and also in bringing down poaching.
At present, the Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES) in Hyderabad is the only such facility in the country. According to principal scientist and in-charge of the Centre for Wildlife, IVRI, Anil Kumar Sharma, so far, the scientists have collected 140 samples of 25 wild animals. The DNA bank is expected to start this year-end.
“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,” Sharma mentioned. It took one year for the IVRI to collect the DNA samples of animals such as tigers, leopards, lions, elephants, rhinos and deer, which are on the radar of poachers.
“At present, every time there is an incident of poaching, the specimen is sent to the facility in Hyderabad, which is an expensive affair. Also it is too much of a pressure on the Hyderabad institute. We are starting this to cater to the needs of north India,” Sharma said.
The DNA bank was the brainchild of Dr. Raj Kumar Singh, the director of Indian Council of Agricultural Research-IVRI, Mr. Sharma added. “The bank has ‘positive sample’, meaning a ‘known sample’ which will have DNA sequencing. In future, if we get some ‘unknown sample’ like hair or skin, then with the help of the DNA bank, we can tell which animal it belongs to,” Sharma added.