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Genomics, Genetics and Health: African Wildlife Conservation James Derr, Professor Veterinary Pathobiology Texas A&M University College Station, Texas.

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Presentation on theme: "Genomics, Genetics and Health: African Wildlife Conservation James Derr, Professor Veterinary Pathobiology Texas A&M University College Station, Texas."— Presentation transcript:

1 Genomics, Genetics and Health: African Wildlife Conservation James Derr, Professor Veterinary Pathobiology Texas A&M University College Station, Texas


3 Why should we be interested in Genetics? Species conservation is conservation of genes and their diversity. Individual animals are really temporary repositories for their genes. Their genes were here before them and hopefully will still be here after their death.

4 Conservation genomics is the use of biotechnology for the conservation and restoration of biodiversity. Levels of genetic diversity are directly proportional to a species long term ability to adapt, survive and thrive.

5 Therefore, loss of genetic diversity is detrimental to overall population health and long-term survival.  To date, one of the most detailed conservation genomics studies of any wildlife species focused on American bison.  My research program alone has published over 20 scientific articles on bison genetics.  This species experienced severe and well documented population declines between 1800 and 1900 that reduced the census size of this species by over 99.9% (<500 animals).

6 The spectacular recovery to over 750,000 animals present today is a testament to their genetic constitution and represents one of the most significant accomplishments in modern conservation biology. We have learned a great deal from 15 years of bison genetic studies and now it’s time to start applying that knowledge base to the conservation of other mammalian species.

7 Conservation Genomics: African Wildlife Africa is best known for the enormous diversity and richness of its wildlife. It has the greatest variety of large ungulates, or hoofed mammals (some 90 species), of any continent.

8 We propose, using the bison studies as a model, to expand the use of these genomic technologies for the benefit of African wildlife species These efforts are based on developing a systematic plan to collect information and genetic samples from captured or killed animals and archive this material with museums, zoos and universities within each country. I will briefly outline four broad objectives for these efforts. While the first objective is the absolute key to continued success of these genetic conservation efforts.

9 Project Objectives I 1. Establish a network of professional hunters for the systematic collection of genetic samples, living tissues and associated health data from harvested or captured wildlife species in Sub-Saharan Africa. This will empower more people around the world to conduct research with African wildlife.

10 We propose to train the people most closely involved with each species in the field; The Professional Hunters: Collect DNA samples and tissues from killed or captured wildlife from at least two tissue sources: Blood samples on FTA cards. Hair follicles pulled from the tip of the tail. Living cells from selected animals for future cloning needs. Access the overall health of these animals through systematic screening for: Evidence / documentation of infectious diseases. Evidence / documentation of external and internal parasites. It is critical that all associated information, such as; species name, sex, estimated age, GPS location, trophy scoring results and any unusual traits be recorded and associated with these genetics samples. This should become a routine procedure.

11 Training Professional Hunters across Africa Educational videos of genetic collection and health assessments from killed or captured wildlife

12 Program Objectives II 2. Fully develop rapid and economical individual species/subspecies identification technologies from multiple mitochondrial and nuclear genes. These technologies will be designed so that they can be conducted in any moderately outfitted laboratory.

13 For example, the BarCoding of life strategy Why is there still no comprehensive “gold standard’ of specific genes sequences that can, without question, identify any biological material to at least species level for all hunted African game? This will require the typical mitochondrial gene sequence used for plants and insects and 1 or 2 additional nuclear regions.

14 Projective Objective III 3. Develop population level technologies to access biodiversity levels within and between populations of selected species. We need technologies for determining geographic variation within species, inbreeding, parentage testing and overall genetic fitness estimations. These technologies will be based on information from domestic animal and livestock genomic sequencing projects


16 Project Objective IV 4. Produce detailed gene maps of selected species using high throughput 3 rd generation sequencing and/or microarray genotyping / gene expression technologies to identify genes that confer important heritable traits such as those involving body and horn size, behavior, fertility, overall fitness and disease resistance. Again, these gene maps will be based on the genome databases derived from genomic sequencing projects.

17 The ultimate goal is to develop resources and molecular biology technologies to provide for conscientious stewardship of African game species for healthy populations and stainable trophy hunting... Now is the time for sportsmen associations, species conservation groups and scientists to start systematically archiving genetic material and health data and use powerful new genomic technologies to help insure the long-term conservation of healthy wildlife populations.

18 Who pays for this? Who pays for this? The people who have the most to gain, the most to give and have the passion for Africa and it’s wildlife Training, DNA samples and achieving Private organizations that support the industry such as local Safari club chapters. Sportsmen, hunters and outfitters and their social organizations. Genetics and Genomic Research Hunters Conservation organizations Private and Wildlife foundations Federal and State governments

19 What can NAPHA provide? Professional hunters are the key to the success of this effort. You are most knowledgeable people regarding the animals, you know and see the issues and have a strong vested interest in stainable hunting of healthy populations. Hopefully you will agree that long- term stewardship of these species can benefit from the use of genetic technologies. 1. As an industry, I am asking NAPHA to support the idea of DNA banking and associated information collection from wildlife species taken by hunters as the first step. 2. Communicate this information and frame the important questions to the scientific community in order to set research priorities.

20 Also, collecting genetic samples is rewarding when you know you are partnering with other disciplines in a worldwide effort to conserve these species.

21 With an eye toward the future…

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