To promote excellence in conservation biotechnology and serve for conservation of endangered wildlife in India
Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES) makes Effective conservation measures include both in situ habitat preservation, species protection and ex situ conservation (captive breeding in controlled environment to restock original wild populations).
In order to support both these measures using biotechnological tools and techniques in an innovative manner, LaCONES was established.
With support from Dept. of Biotechnology (DBT), Govt. of India, New Delhi, Central Zoo Authority of India (CZA), New Delhi and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), New Delhi and Government of Andhra Pradesh project LaCONES was established in 1998.
Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES) – Highlights
The laboratory was itself established in 2007.
LaCONES has modern facilities and equipment that are essential for the work being carried out here. It also has wild animal housing area that could maintain large carnivores, herbivores and birds.
It has been recognized as a heritage building by INTACH
Wildlife forensics & disease diagnostics:
Wildlife and their products represent the third greatest illegal traffic after drugs and arms. Illegal trade of wildlife is lucrative as the financial rewards are high and it involves considerably less risk. Worldwide, there exists enormous demand for wildlife products, such as, tiger parts in Chinese traditional medicines, bird feathers in ornamental jewellery or rhino horn as symbol of wealth.
In response to this, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) was established in 1973 and it imposed a ban on illegal trade of wildlife parts and products derived from endangered species. However, enforcement of laws and strict adherence to norms stipulated by International Conventions remains a challenge.
Monitoring of illegal wildlife trade primarily requires species, individual and sex identification from parts and products seized at the checkpoints. Identification using morphological keys are often not reliable and do not lead to successful prosecution of the offender. In such cases, modern molecular approaches have great utility.
DNA can be extracted from highly processed and degraded wildlife products such as, cooked and dried meats, claws on tanned hides, dried shark fins, egg shells, animal hairs, bone, ivory, horns, turtle shell, feathers and fish scales and even from baggage used for carrying the illegal wildlife products.
LaCONES plays an important role in unambiguously identifying species involved in illegal wildlife trade by furnishing reports to law enforcement agencies.
Similarly, wildlife diseases pose an enormous threat. Early detection of diseases in wildlife population could lead to control of their spread and mortality of animals. Using DNA based techniques, LaCONES provides diagnosis of wildlife diseases.
Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES) – Need
Biodiversity is inextricably linked to human well being due to its influence on ecosystem services, functions and climate regulation, thereby necessitating conservation of biodiversity. India has some of the world’s most diverse bio-regions which host numerous endemic and endangered species such as: Asiatic Lion, Nilgiri tahr, lion-tailed macaque, Jerdon’s courser, cane turtle and purple frog.
Declines in their population have occurred rapidly due to several anthropogenic pressures in the recent years. Some species have gone extinct, and notable among them are, Indian cheetah and pink-headed duck. Habitat loss due agricultural expansion, urbanization, fragmentation of habitat by roads and dams, pollution, disease, in-breeding depression and poaching are some of the causes for the decline. Identifying factors causing such declines and suggesting mitigation measures require rigorous scientific studies.
Biotechnology deals with techniques and applications that allow changes and improvements in living organisms to provide desirable products for our use. The range of techniques and applications currently used in biotechnology could be also adapted for conservation purposes.
Majority of species that are on the brink of extinction because of the rapid loss of habitat and genetic diversity, mainly come from poverty and strife ridden areas of the world and from global biodiversity hotspots.
In vitro measures could be readily used for these species in an effective manner, so that their extinction risk could be substantially reduced. It also makes these tools easily accessible by variety of stakeholders.
Developing and using tools and techniques to enhance conservation outcomes is “Conservation Biotechnology”. This emerging field of science already has its share of successes. It has provided insights on propagation of endangered animals, storage of gametes and successful reintroduction of wild animals.
The same tools could be also gainfully used to reveal aspects of behaviour, evolution history of species; strengthen both ex situ and in situ conservation; solve forensic cases; and help in early detection of wildlife diseases.