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WildGenes - Cracking The Code With RZSS

In 2010, the RZSS opened a laboratory at Edinburgh Zoo called the WildGenes laboratory. It is a genetics-based research facility, and the only of its kind within a zoo in the UK. The aim of the WildGenes laboratory is to use cutting-edge genetic techniques to study the biology of endangered species and thus contribute to their conservation.

One of the main areas of research at the WildGenes laboratory is surrounding the use of non-invasive genetic sampling to study wild populations of animals. Instead of taking genetic samples directly from the animal, samples such as hair, faeces or saliva are collected. These are then used to extract DNA for genetic analysis. This method of sampling is particularly useful for studying rare or hard-to-find species, as it avoids the need for direct contact with the animals and minimises disturbance to their habitat.

The WildGenes lab has also developed a number of innovative genetic techniques for studying wildlife populations. For example, they have developed a method that allows them to extract DNA from things such as old museum specimens, which can then be used to study the genetic history of populations over time.

The lab has also managed to use genetic research in order to determine the best diets for different species. This has allowed them to set out international guidelines for dietary plans for a wide range of endangered and non-endangered species.

In addition to this, the WildGenes lab has been exploring the use of genetics in order to better match individual animals for more successful and healthy breeding. This could be hugely important within conservation, ensuring healthy offspring to continue increasing the population of endangered species.

The lab's research has contributed to the conservation of a wide range of species, from pandas and tigers to more local species like Scottish wildcats and capercaillie. They have played a key role in the conservation of some of the world's most endangered species, such as the Saiga antelope in Kazakhstan and the Yangtze finless porpoise in China.

My Thoughts

The RZSS WildGenes laboratory at Edinburgh Zoo is a world-class research facility that is making a huge contribution towards conservation and the protection of endangered species. It is a particularly impressive laboratory because it is made up of such a small number of people, yet having a huge, international impact on conservation across all corners of the globe. Their genetics technologies are extremely impressive and are helping to protect some of the world's most vulnerable animals and their habitats.


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