Zoos Inbreeding Mother and Sons

BBP’s tiger cubs are inbred
Bangalore, may 20, DHNS :
The staff at the Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP), which was lying low after a series of tiger deaths last year due to salmonella infection, were overjoyed when their 11-year-old tigress Manasa, gave birth to four cubs two months ago.

Manasa with her four cubs born two months ago. dh file photoBut the smiles did not last long since these cubs were found to have been inbred. The father tiger, Manu happens to be from Manasa’s first litter.
According to biodiversity experts, tigers do not inbreed in the wild but there are exceptions too. 

In places like national parks and zoo, inbreeding is bound to happen, and it is the duty of the zoo management to avoid the ‘genetic degeneration.’
In case of BBP, inbreeding has happened among the tigers making the cubs prone to genetic diseases, thereby diluting their genetic purity. BBP’s Executive Director Dr R Raju said that this incident has happened by default.

“Unlike in a natural free range, the big cats are forced to live in enclosures. Once the cub is separated from the mother; it matures and grows up to be an independent animal.  In case of Manasa, the animal keepers may have not been alert while keeping the animals together,” he said.

He refused to comment on the incident since the mating had happened much before he took over as the ED of BBP. Raju said these cubs have the risk of weak links and will not have the genetic strength.

Animal exchange programme can help in solving such problems to maintain the base of gene pool in BBP, he added.

DNA of animals

Former director of Institute of Animal Health and Veterinary Biologicals R N Srinivas Gowda said the animal keepers have not applied their mind. “In order to check inbreeding, a separate institute – Animal in Health and Disease – was set up to check the DNA of animals in captivity and to establish the lineage of animals,” he said.

Zoo Authority of Karnataka’s member secretary M N Jayakumar was unaware of the incident. He said he needs to check. “Inbreeding is not good for the health of the animals; we need to check on this. Animal exchange programme can help us in handling inbreeding problems,” he added.

D Rajkumar from Wildlife Conservation, Bandipur said inbreeding among tigers normally does not happen in the wild and inbreeding is very rare as mating is through ‘natural selection’ for the big cats.

“Among tigers, it is the female which normally selects its mate, looking for genetic viability, depending on the size and strength of the animal. In case of inbred animals, although they would look fit, they would develop genetic diseases like resistance to diseases. Since the animals in BBP are kept with close range of humans, even common cold or tuberculosis can spread easily. Animal exchange is one of the ways to keep away from inbreeding,” he added.



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