Dr drh Muhammad Agil: Bio-banking Technology is Important for Rhino Conservation

Dr Drh Muhammad Agil, a lecturer at IPB University explained the conservation measures for the Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis). He explained that this conservation effort needs to be done because the current population of one-horned rhino was estimated at no more than 100 individuals scattered in Aceh and Lampung.

He said that conservation measures that can be taken are through the application of bio-bank technology (cryo-preservation). According to him, bio-banks can help maintain the availability of germplasm. Thus, efforts to save endangered animals that are almost extinct can be carried out.

"Since 2019, Bio-banking has begun to be implemented in Indonesia as an implementation of the mandate of the Emergency Action Plan (RAD) issued by the Government," said Muhammad Agil.

Furthermore, Dr Muhammad Agil said, the difficulty of conserving the Sumatran rhino in nature is caused by the population being scattered in small pockets in various isolated areas. This makes it difficult for male and female rhinos to meet and mate because there are too few of them while their habitat is too wide (Allee effect).

“Breeding in an ex situ (captive) environment without any engineering technology is only able to produce five rhinos in 40 years worldwide. Meanwhile, in Indonesia the condition of rhinos is exacerbated by health problems,” explained Dr Muhammad Agil.

Therefore, he said, it is necessary to carry out a search and rescue program for rhinos in isolated and unviable populations to be transferred to breeding facilities. Dr Agil said search and rescue programs must be carried out as soon as possible before animals experience extinction.

“In the breeding center genetic material is collected to ensure the genetic diversity of the rhinos or heterozygosity. This step must be taken so that there is no marriage between relatives that can cause disability,” added Dr Muhammad Agil, an expert on Assisted Reproductive Technology, IPB University.

Dr Muhammad Agil also explained that genetic material was collected in the form of embryos, frozen semen, and induced-pluripotent stem cells. These three materials can be used as reserves to produce new rhino individuals. This procedure has also been mentioned in the Sumatran Rhino Bio-bank document for 2021-2026 prepared by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

“Even so, the ethical factor must still be considered. Genetic material cannot be collected, manipulated, and then reproduced to create an imbalance in nature. Genetic diversity must be maintained so that healthy rhino populations can continue," he concluded. (SWP/RA) (IAAS/AML)

Published Date : 27-Sep-2021

Resource Person : Dr Muhammad Agil

Keyword : Badak, Lecturer of IPB, FKH IPB, Veterinary Medicine, rhino conservation, bio-bank for rhinos