Scat samples can now reveal more about tigers

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Kolkata | Published: November 18, 2014 1:45 PM

By examining the scat samples of carnivores like tigers and leopards, field biologists can now identify their species...

By examining the scat samples of carnivores like tigers and leopards, field biologists can now identify their species, sex and individuals.

A group of scientists from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Centre for Wildlife Studies and Wildlife Conservation Society have developed a range of novel genetic approaches to identify species, sex and individuals from carnivore scats.

Their research was published in the latest issue of international journal ‘Conservation Genetics Resources’.

The scientists collected over 300 carnivore scat samples across the Malenad-Mysore Tiger Landscape in Karnataka, and used non-invasive molecular techniques to identify the species (tiger or leopard), assign individual identities and also reliably determine the gender of the animal.

Dr K Ullas Karanth of Wildlife Conservation Society, India, said accurate scientific baseline data is the foundation of a good conservation initiative.

While remote cameras can easily distinguish species, they do not work for species in which individuals and sex are not uniquely identifiable.

Survival of endangered species depends on timely information on distribution, demography and ecology at landscape levels.

The researchers said the new tools will greatly enhance the utility of basic field data to effectively conserve large felids in India.

“We are constantly looking to develop simpler yet more accurate methods to collect data on wildlife, which will eventually be applied in their conservation. This pilot study for tigers and leopards is a step ahead in conservation genetics,” Dr Karanth said.

The methodology can be successfully applied to any other endangered wildlife and will be particularly useful for large mammals like bears or dholes for example, that cannot be identified through physical features, he said.

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