Malaysia: Advanced breeding techniques to save Sabah's wildlife

muguntan vanar The Star 27 Dec 17;

KOTA KINABALU: With the Sumatran rhino facing extinction, Sabah is looking to advances in breeding technology to ensure such wildlife is saved.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said that rapid advances in animal cell and molecular biology has made it possible to create sperm and eggs of mammals from their skin cells.

These efforts would help in the conservation of endangered wildlife including banteng (wild cattle), sun bears, the clouded leopard, pangolin, and orangutan.

He said his department has already kicked off programmes to use advanced reproductive technology to save endangered species in Sabah with the support of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.

The genome of all four of the last Sumatran rhinos in Malaysia are being kept in living cell cultures both overseas and locally, he said.

He said that Puntung – the female who was euthanised in June – was still “alive” in cell culture in Malaysia.

“We are building up Malaysian expertise in other essential skills such as conducting safe general anaesthesia for large mammals, collection of semen and eggs, and in-vitro fertilisation.

“Semen of sun bears and macaques was collected and stored in liquid nitrogen in 2017. The same will be done for the clouded leopard and proboscis monkey in 2018,” he said in a statement issued here Wednesday.

Tuuga said the Sabah Wildlife Department was working with Universiti Malaysia Sabah’s Faculty of Sustainable Agriculture in Sandakan, where an advanced reproductive technology laboratory is being developed.

The department is also working with the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Germany), the Agro-biotechnology Institute Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia, and the International Islamic University Malaysia in Kuantan.

“Other specialist institutions which are helping us are Morula IVF (Indonesia), Avantea (Italy) and the Zoological Park Association of Thailand,” he said.

Tuuga added that the Bornean banteng or tembadau, with about 400 left in the wild, was the most endangered wildlife species in Sabah after the Sumatran rhino.

He said it was definitely a species suitable for captive breeding and for the application of advanced reproductive technology, with a view of reintroducing them into plantations in the longer-term.

“We would be interested to partner with one of the big oil palm plantation companies for this work,” he added.

Tuuga said rare wildlife species would keep going extinct and there was a need to use new and supportive means to save them.

“If these new technologies had been available 20 years ago, we could have produced Sumatran rhino embryos in-vitro and potentially implant these embryos into surrogate mother rhinos in another country,” he said.


Breeding Bornean banteng with modern tech
KRISTY INUS New Straits Times 27 Dec 17;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Wildlife Department has identified that the highly endangered Bornean banteng is suitable to be bred in capitivity and reproduced through advanced technology.

Director Augustine Tuuga said Sabah had implemented a programme to use advanced reproductive technology to conserve certain endangered species since 2010.

He said banteng could also be reared in oil palm estates as part of its conservation programme in the future.

“We would be interested to partner with one of the oil palm plantation companies on this,” he said in a statement here.

Bornean banteng or Tembadau is the second most endangered wildlife species in Sabah after the Sumatran Rhinoceros,

In recent reports, wildlife experts had raised worry about the future of endangered species in Sabah such as the Borneo pygmy elephant, sun bear, orang utan and pangolin.

Director of research facility Danau Girang Field Centre, Dr Benoit Goossens had reportedly suggested the use of new technologies including assisted reproduction and for studies on captive breeding to be done for species like banteng and pangolin, as their population was declining rapidly.

Augustine said rare species would continue to become extinct if there were no efforts to find new and supportive means to conserve the animals.

However, he said assisted reproduction and captive breeding were not “fashionable” among wildlife conservationsits here and globally.

“One important point is that setting aside protected areas is absolutely necessary, but this will never be enough, anywhere in the world, to save every species from extinction.”

He said when the population of a species became very small, the concern should not only be with reducing deaths as more importantly, it should be increasing its birth rate.

“The Sumatran rhino case also has shown us that about 80 per cent of over 20 female rhinos captured in Indonesia and Malaysia since the 1980s, had significant reproductive pathology which prevented them from the ability to conceive,” he said.

Augustine said the department had an engagement with non-governmental organisation Borneo Rhino Alliance for the rhino conservation programme.

“The genomes of all four of the last Sumatran rhinos in Malaysia are kept in living cell cultures both overseas and locally.

“Puntung, the female which was euthanised in June 2017, for example was still ‘alive’ in cell culture in Malaysia.

“We are also building up Malaysian expertise in other essential skills such as conducting safe general anaesthesia for large mammals, collection of semen and eggs, and in vitro fertilisation.”

Augustine said semen of sun bears and macaques were collected and stored in liquid nitrogen in 2017.

“The same will be done for clouded leopard and proboscis monkey in 2018,” he said, adding that the works included local and international collaborations.

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