On May 25, 2012, we were back with yet another episode of “Talk Biotech on Wednesdays”. Our speaker for the fourth episode of “Talk Biotech on Wednesdays” was Mr. Dibesh Karmacharya. Mr. Karmacharya is the International Director at Center for Molecular Dynamics Nepal (CMDN) and Executive Director at Intrepid Nepal Pvt Ltd (INPL). He was able to mesmerize all participants by sharing his ideas, projects and possibilities in wildlife sector of Nepal using biotechnology. He studied Wildlife Ecology and worked with various laboratories and scientific organizations in United States. With the vision of introducing new technology in the country he returned back to the country and along with few other like-minded friends, established a state of art research laboratory in Kathmandu – Intrepid Nepal. Under his supervision, the laboratory conducts various molecular and genetic assays on wildlife, human diseases and plants for research and diagnostic purposes.
The use of non-invasive technology and genetic tools for biodiversity management and wildlife conservation is a new concept. This technique is already widely popular in western countries and is also an emerging method for research in South East Asia. The change in environment is causing drifts in the natural population of animals – many are extinct and many are at high risk of extinction. There can be various natural and unnatural causes for such change of pattern in population. Since we are also a part of the ecosystem, we must all be aware of the causes and participate in policy making for healthy ecosystem. The genetic study can give us a clear picture of causes, affecting factors, relatedness, disease patterns, food habits, ancestry etc. of animals which helps us predict the actual size and formulate plans to balance the normal healthy populations.
Mr. Karmacharya started the talk with introduction of biodiversity, conservation biology and the use of science in conservation of natural resources. He encouraged the participants to use science to create jobs and provide opportunities as well as make proper use of natural resources. He is currently making the use of non-invasive genetic technology to identify the threats to population of endangered species like Snow leopards and Bengal tigers in protected areas of Nepal by collecting scat samples. He is conducting research that includes habitat, population estimation, distribution biology, behavior and threat factors. The outcome of the research, in future, may help create a comprehensive database which is useful to identify and track the factors affecting population. In Nepal, till date, we do not have frontline information about our own natural resources and biodiversity to plan a long term conservation plans.
During the presentation, he also explained the tools available like camera traps, pug marks, scrapes, scats for the collection of data on animals like tigers, bears, musk deer, snow leopards. He also made a remark on the limitations of these tools. Genetic monitoring of species is a very new technology for Nepal, which can give concrete data about the species, their sex, maternal lineages, population density, diet preferences and diseases. With the proper geographical information of the sample, geo-spatial mapping can be performed which helps trace the habitat, surrounding, food availability for the animals. These are quite helpful to picture the exact biodiversity pattern of any area.
Greatest challenge to wildlife conservation is poaching and difficulty in tracing the ones who are behind the illegal job. Various genetic tools can be used in wildlife forensics for identification and tracing of the poached animals to its original habitat. Genetic identification and information also helps determine the effect of climate change in the biodiversity. Moreover, for a country like Nepal, it is also very useful to patent animals, plants and any other biological resources indigenous to the country .
This episode of “Talk Biotech on Wednesdays” enlightened on yet another prospect of biotechnology – wildlife conservation.
Q. Is Genetic technology affordable?
Yes, it has some upfront cost but it gives rich data, once the genetic information is registered that particular data can be used for research or taken as reference for any development and conservation plans.
Q. How can you get the confirmed scat samples of a particular animal in the field?
There are technologies like Nucleic acid loop mediated amplification (LAMP). These are cards deployed on the field, which amplify a common vertebrate amplicon. Also the field staffs need to be trained on identification and handling of scat samples.
Q. What is the utility of radio coloring?
It is a tracking device attached to animals, which gives information on their movements. Satellite coloring is quite popular nowadays for the same purpose.
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