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Will Biomedical Analysis Aid Endangered Species?

Posted November 19, 2008 12:01 AM by SavvyExacta

Recently, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Biology and Soils (IBS) captured "Alonya", a rare female Far Eastern (Amur) leopard, for a check-up. In addition to facing threats posed by habitat loss, poaching, and disease, endangered species such as the Far Eastern leopard are at risk because of inbreeding. Consequently, the organizations which captured, examined, and later released Alyona didn't just want to learn more about Far Eastern leopards. The WCS and IBS wanted to learn about genetic disorders that could be harming the species.

Far Eastern Leopard – Endangered Species

Once, the Far Eastern leopard ranged from China to Russia to Korea. Today, only about 25 to 40 of these big cats live in the southeastern corner of Russia. Poaching, a lack of habitat caused by forest fires and infrastructure development, the negative impacts of inbreeding, and a lack of political attention to conservation are all cited as reasons for the Far Eastern leopard's decline.

According to an August 2008 report by the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), the species does have better odds now that the Russian government has decided to "establish a unified, centrally governed protected area". The Amur leopards will have 2,000 square kilometers of a safe area to play in.

Technology May Help

Although Alyona, the most recently captured Far Eastern leopard, seemed to be in good health, three previously captured leopards exhibited heart murmurs upon physical examination – signs of genetic disorders. Because the Amur population is so small, inbreeding is nearly inevitable, and genetic disorders like these could wind up wiping out the species, especially when combined with other factors.

Blood samples and an electrocardiogram were saved from each cat for further analysis. The research scientists hope that the genetic information revealed will help them to assess the level of inbreeding, determine the risks, and identify potential solutions. Ideally, closely-related leopards could be relocated to avoid the production of inbred offspring. The data collected can also be used for the future development of a breeding and release program.

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has a budget of $61,000 (USD) that includes salaries for five employees, equipment, and travel. The organization hopes that population monitoring, in combination with attempts to stop extinction, will help the Far Eastern leopard's numbers begin to climb again.

Resources:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081030123951.htm

http://www.livescience.com/animals/081030-big-cat-checkup.html

http://www.panda.org/news_facts/newsroom/news/index.cfm?uNewsID=143881

http://www.amur-leopard.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amur_Leopard

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Guru
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#1

Re: Will Biomedical Analysis Aid Endangered Species?

11/19/2008 10:09 AM

My heart is very touched by this article. I have loved big cats for the longest time. They are so beautiful, and that asset makes them a big target for poaching. When you get down to 25 or 40 left, it is really hard to stop inbreeding. Unfortunately, negligence pays the price. If it was our skins (humans in general) on the line, you'd bet people would be actively trying to save us.

Can you stop extinction when there are 25 to 40 left? I doubt that it will be very successful - it is a shame.

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Guru
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#4
In reply to #1

Re: Will Biomedical Analysis Aid Endangered Species?

11/20/2008 12:26 PM

You do hear about the occasional rare species making a comeback, and it certainly looks like they are making a good effort here. Hopefully these cats will prevail and the things learned while helping them can be used to aid other endangered species as well - maybe even before they get to this point.

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Guru

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#2

Re: Will Biomedical Analysis Aid Endangered Species?

11/20/2008 11:21 AM

Well at least Bush is doing all that he can to get rid of these endangered species!

Bush set to relax rules protecting species (Tomorrow is his last day to pass this bill)

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Kaplin
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Guru
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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Will Biomedical Analysis Aid Endangered Species?

11/20/2008 12:24 PM

It would be a shame if it passed - it's hard enough to protect endangered animals without making their environments even more vulnerable.

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