Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search


Helping to save the rhino

14 January 2014

Helping to save the rhino

Research from Victoria University has revealed a way to help secure the future of an endangered species of black rhinoceros in South Africa.

Rosalynn Anderson-Lederer, who spent six months working with black rhino in KwaZulu-Natal  province in south-eastern South Africa, looked at how quickly genetic variation is being lost in the endangered rhino population and discovered that the decline can be slowed, and possibly reversed.

Click for big version.

“Simply by bringing in a pair of rhinos, one male and one female, from other parts of Africa once every generation, so once every 14 years, genetic variability can be increased,” she says.

Rosalynn, who recently graduated from Victoria University with a PhD in Cell and Molecular Bioscience, says that high levels of genetic variability are important to improve chances of survival.

“If a species has low levels, it should be able to survive slight to moderate changes to the environment, or disease or injury, but may not be able to survive if it encounters more than one of these things at the same time. Species with higher levels of genetic variation tend to thrive better.”

Studies have shown that, overall, species with low levels of genetic variability are at greater risk of extinction than those with high levels.

“If genetic variation loss in endangered populations can be slowed down, it could give the population a chance to adapt to future changes in the environment or diseases,” she says.

Rosalynn, originally from San Diego, went to South Africa in 2008 and 2009, for three months at a time, to collect genetic material from the black rhinoceros.

“To bring down a black rhino in order to collect blood and tissue is an amazing feat,” she says. The rhino has to be identified from a helicopter and then “darted” with an anaesthetic.

“Once the rhino stops you have to act quickly as its metabolism is quite delicate. The veterinarian is careful and if the rhino shows any signs of distress they reverse the anaesthetic.

“If the rhino is breathing normally and sleeping, you have 20 minutes from start to finish to take enough blood and tissue and to get a radio transmitter in the horn.”

Back in Wellington, she spent a number of months testing the samples in the lab. “Extracting DNA can take anywhere from several hours to a few days, depending on how you extract it. With an endangered species, you have a limited number of samples to work with,” she adds.

The management of genetic variation is important for species that depend on human intervention for survival.

“There a number of species, both plant and animal, which would be extinct if not for human intervention,” says Rosalynn, “and there is something very rewarding about finding something that is going to help an endangered species.”


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Trade: NZ Trade Deficit Widens To A Record In September

Oct. 27 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand's monthly trade deficit widened to a record in September as meat exports dropped to their lowest level in more than three years. More>>


Animal Welfare: Cruel Practices Condemned By DairyNZ Chief

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says cruel and illegal practices are not in any way condoned or accepted by the industry as part of dairy farming.

Tim says the video released today by Farmwatch shows some footage of transport companies and their workers, as well as some unacceptable behaviour by farmers of dragging calves. More>>


Postnatal Depression: 'The Thief That Steals Motherhood' - Alison McCulloch

Post-natal depression is a sly and cruel illness, described by one expert as ‘the thief that steals motherhood’, it creeps up on its victims, hiding behind the stress and exhaustion of being a new parent, catching many women unaware and unprepared. More>>


DIY: Kiwi Ingenuity And Masking Tape Saves Chick

Kiwi ingenuity and masking tape has saved a Kiwi chick after its egg was badly damaged endangering the chick's life. The egg was delivered to Kiwi Encounter at Rainbow Springs in Rotorua 14 days ago by a DOC worker with a large hole in its shell and against all odds has just successfully hatched. More>>


International Trade: Key To Lead Mission To India; ASEAN FTA Review Announced

Prime Minister John Key will lead a trade delegation to India next week, saying the pursuit of a free trade agreement with the protectionist giant is "the primary reason we're going" but playing down the likelihood of early progress. More>>



MYOB: Digital Signatures Go Live

From today, Inland Revenue will begin accepting “digital signatures”, saving businesses and their accountants a huge amount of administration time and further reducing the need for pen and paper in the workplace. More>>

Oil Searches: Norway's Statoil Quits Reinga Basin

Statoil, the Norwegian state-owned oil company, has given up oil and gas exploration in Northland's Reinga Basin, saying the probably of a find was 'too low'. More>>


Modern Living: Auckland Development Blowouts Reminiscent Of Run Up To GFC

The collapse of property developments in Auckland is "almost groundhog day" to the run-up of the global financial crisis in 2007/2008 as banks refuse to fund projects due to blowouts in construction and labour costs, says John Kensington, the author of KPMG's Financial Institutions Performance Survey. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news