No signs of genetic inbreeding in captive-bred pygmy hogs: CCMB

Pygmy hogs are among the rare and endangered animals listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Indian Wildlife Protection Act. The present population is estimated to be less than 300 in wild and the original population may be less than 50 and restricted to Manas National Park in Assam.

The Pygmy Hog Conservation Program (PHCP), a collaborative project with Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, IUCN/SSC Wild Pig Specialist Group, Assam forest department and Ministry of Environment and Forests, EcoSystems-India and Aaranyak took up a project to save this species from extinction by breeding the animals in captivity.

Since 1996, over 500 animals were bred and 142 were released into the wild as part of the conservation program. However, all these captive individuals were offspring of seven wild caught individuals. CSIR-CCMB-LaCONES (Laboratory for Conservation of Endangered Species) and PHCP collaborated to examine reproductive and genetic fitness of these captive bred individuals to check for genetic diversity.

A research group headed by G. Umapathy studied genetic changes in 36 captive-bred pygmy hogs across eight consecutive generations for genetic diversity and reproductive success to account for any fitness loss. The study found no signs of genetic inbreeding between individuals across different generations.

“This was possible due to strict scientific conservation breeding protocol of carefully selected mating pairs sharing the lowest kinship between them. But recent generations showed slightly increased relatedness so, we recommend introduction of a few wild individuals to the breeding pool,” said Dr. Umapathy.

“This proves it is possible to avoid genetic inbreeding in a small captive population,” said PHCP & EcoSystems-India’s Goutam Narayan. “This is the first such study on Indian animals to understand genetics effect of long-term captive breeding of endangered animals. This will guide management of breeding protocol in other similar programs,” said CCMB director Vinay K. Nandicoori.

Lead author of the study is Deepanwita Purohit and the others are S. Manu, M.S. Ram, S.Sharma, and H.C. Patnaik from CCMB, and Parag J. Deka, besides Dr. Narayan, said a press release.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2022 10:10:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/no-signs-of-genetic-inbreeding-in-captive-bred-pygmy-hogs-ccmb/article37144622.ece

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