Poaching, hunting, and habitat destruction have threatened big cats in Asia. Since the 20th century, big cats such as tigers, lions, leopards, and snow leopards have suffered significant declines in their populations. Currently, Asiatic lions, Bengal tigers, and snow leopards are all listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List, and leopards are categorized as vulnerable with a declining population trend. India is currently home to the last surviving population of the Asiatic lion in the wild, and accounts for 60 percent of the global wild tiger population.
As one of the last remaining countries home to wild species of Asian big cats, India is in serious need to accelerate their conservation efforts. In order to effectively do so, the country is working in collaboration with the Republic of Korea, with support from the Bio-Bridge Initiative, to develop technologies and standardized methods that are vital to the conservation and rehabilitation of big cats throughout Asia. This on-going project is currently addressing challenges to the conservation of Asian big cats through technology sharing and the use of unified DNA typing methodology.
The main objectives of the present project include the training of scientific staff at regional wildlife institutions in India on different aspects of conservation genetics, the establishment of the regional wildlife genetic facilities in India through technical and scientific cooperation, and the cultivation of scientific cooperation and synergism among different stakeholders in India to establish standardized STR typing methodologies for Asian big cats.
As part of the project, the Seoul National University College of Veterinary Medicine (Seoul, Republic of Korea) and Amity Institute of Forestry and Wildlife (Noida, India) recently hosted a workshop on Asian big cats' conservation genetics at the Amity University Uttar Pradesh (AUUP) campus in Noida, India. From March 21st to 23rd, forty participants attended the training workshop on the use of DNA based tools for the conservation of Asian big cats. The training sessions focused on understanding the need for the use of molecular tools in wildlife management and conservation for Asian big cat species like tigers, leopards, lion, snow leopards, and clouded leopards.
Participants in the workshop ranged from researchers, students, ecologists, taxonomists, and molecular biologists from wildlife research institutions, universities, and NGOs from India and Nepal. The hands-on training workshop included lectures, case reports, and practical sessions. During the hands-on laboratory sessions, participants were introduced to different methods for DNA extraction of fecal samples, DNA fingerprinting, collection and storage protocols, and more.
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