Geneticists Building DNA Bank of African Animals
Dallas Safari Club | Jun 12, 2014
Dallas Safari Club (DSC) is continuing its financial support of a Texas A&M University effort to build a DNA repository of African game species. The growing bank of DNA samples can be used to track the genetic heritage and health of wildlife.
DSC has awarded grants for this effort since 2011.
"Biologists say this program is an insurance policy for the future of wildlife," said Ben Carter, DSC executive director. "And it's passionate, generous hunters, mainly from the U.S., who are making it go."
Outdoor Life magazine featured the program in its March 2014 edition.
In the article, Dr. James Derr of Texas A&M related the importance of genetic diversity in the restoration of American bison. Once estimated at 30 million, only a few hundred remained by the late 1800s. Inbreeding among survivors should have led to extinction. But ranchers had saved a few bison from different regions and different genetic stocks. That diversity, researchers would later discover, is what saved the species.
That's the lesson that inspired Derr to develop the DNA repository effort for Africa, where today the fate of many species is clouded by habitat loss and poaching.
Grants from DSC and other donors allowed Derr to develop more than 250 DNA-collection field kits. Professional hunters and their clients in 11 African countries now use the kits to collect hair and blood samples from game species ranging from rhinos and lions to duikers and kudus. Back at the university, samples are analyzed, the DNA extracted, and genetic information mapped and loaded onto a database available to researchers worldwide.
Carter said, "DSC is proud to be part of this effort. It's another important way that hunters are contributing to conservation for the future."