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American Bison Restoration as a Model for the Propagation of African Wildlife Populations


American Bison Restoration as a Model for the Propagation of African Wildlife Populations James Derr College of Veterinary Medicine Texas A&M University – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: American Bison Restoration as a Model for the Propagation of African Wildlife Populations

American Bison Restoration as a Model for the
Propagation of African Wildlife Populations 
  • James Derr
  • College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Texas AM University

An Overview of Todays Seminar
  • A short discussion of our 10 years of genetics
    research with American bison.
  • Objectives, results and important findings
  • Current and future research with American bison
  • Using these bison studies as a model for the
    conservation African wildlife species
  • Systematic collection of DNA and
    health/location/carcass trait information from
    hunter killed animals in Africa
  • Developing high resolution genetic technologies,
    using the bison model and with knowledge from
    recent genome sequencing projects, for selected
    African wildlife species

A Model for Conservation Genetics - American Bison
The Bison Conservation Genetics Program at Texas
AM University
  • Collaborators
  • Dr. Todd Ward
  • Dr. Robert Schnabel
  • Dr. Natalie Halbert
  • Dr. Chris Seabury
  • Dr. Joe Templeton
  • Dr. Don Davis
  • Dr. Loren Skow
  • Dr. Bhanu Chowdhary
  • Dr. Jim Womack
  • Dr. William Grant
  • Dr. Ron Heibert
  • Dr. Peter Gogan
  • Dr. David Hunter
  • Danny Sweptson
  • Claire Kolenda
  • Federal and private bison managers, owners and
  • Funding Agencies
  • Texas AM University
  • Texas Agriculture Experiment Station
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • US Department of the Interior
  • - National Parks Service
  • - US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Canadian Park Service
  • National Science Foundation
  • Texas Parks and Wildlife
  • Turner Foundation
  • Private bison owners

Bison as a Conservation Model for Genetic Survival
  • For many, conservation biology is often
    considered a crisis discipline because many of
    the species that are of interest are critically
    threatened in some way.
  • Clearly, the recovery of North American bison is
    one of the best documented success stories in
    conservation biology.
  • About 10 years ago we started a NSF funded
    study of bison conservation genetics. The
    objectives were to uncover why the bison recovery
    was so successful and to develop models for the
    conservation of other large mammals specifically
    large African wildlife species.

Just to quickly review American Bison history
  • Bison suffered a well documented population
    decline that between 1840 to 1905.
  • Population numbers were reduced from millions to
    a few hundred animals distributed across North
  • Although most of the blame for this tragedy falls
    on hunters , a number of other explanations are
  • An analysis of the fossil record also suggest
    that bison may have gone through a number of
    historical bottlenecks.
  • However, modern bison appear to be relatively
    free of the inbreeding depression and other
    fitness related problems usually associated with
    severe population bottlenecks. Why?

The Bone(s) of Contention
The Great RecoveryFoundation Plains Bison Herds
(1888 - 1905)
  • James McKay / William Alloway Herd - Canada
  • Walking Coyote (Pablo / Allard Herd) - Montana
  • Frederick Dupree - South Dakota
  • Charles (Buffalo) Jones - Kansas
  • Charles Goodnight - Texas
  • (Some of these herds were used to produce a few
    hybrids between bison and beef cattle to
    improve disease resistance and possible energy
    conversion in beef cattle.)
  • (The hybridization experiments worked.
    improving beef cattle ideas did not.)
  • In addition, a few wild animals (22 - 25)
    remained in Yellowstone National Park.

Bison Populations 1888
McKay-Alloway (70)
Walking Coyote-Pablo-Allard (35)
Dupree-Philip (9)
YNP (30)
Historic bison range 1600s 1700s
Bronx Zoo
Charles Buffalo Jones (57)
Goodnight (13)
From Coder 1975, derived from Hornaday
Success of the The Great Bison Recovery
  • Plains bison numbered over 5000 by the middle
    1930s and they were considered by the American
    Bison Society as out of danger of extinction
  • Current NA bison census 500,000 animals
  • Most bison are in private herds
  • In some cases they are artificially selected for
    size, growth rate, behavior, less hump, more
    rump, etc
  • Most screened private herd have cattle
  • lt20,000 bison maintained by US Canadian
  • Different goals than private herds
  • Most likely an important source of non-hybridized
    bison that can be maintained for future

Public Bison Populations Sampled for Genetic
  • State Private Herds
  • Antelope Island State Park, UT
  • Henry Mountains, UT
  • Custer State Park, SD
  • Finney Game Refuge, KS
  • Maxwell Game Refuge, KS
  • Texas State Bison Herd, TX
  • Santa Catalina Island, CA
  • Nature Conservancy herds
  • More than 100 private bison herds
  • Federal Herds
  • Wichita Mtns. NWR
  • Ft. Niobrara NWR
  • National Bison Range NWR
  • Neal Smith NWR
  • Sullys Hill National Preserve
  • Badlands NP
  • Theodore Roosevelt NP
  • Wind Cave NP
  • Grand Teton NP
  • Yellowstone NP
  • Wood Buffalo NP (Can.)
  • Elk island NP (Can.)
  • Mackenzie Sanctuary (Can.)

To date, archived over 15,000 bison DNA samples
Deliverables from these genetic studies with
bison (gt20 scientific publications)
  • Technology from the cattle genome sequencing and
    gene mapping efforts
  • Compare levels of genetic diversity among
  • inbreeding depression, hidden population
    subdivision, disease resistance genes
  • Establish genetic relationships between
  • Confirm population histories, identify unique
  • Use as platform to investigate management
  • Effect of culling, skewed sex ratios, small
    population sizes, herd reduction
  • Determine parentage in small and large
  • Multiple sire private herds, whole herd pedigree
  • Test for mitochondrial and nuclear bison-domestic
    cattle introgression bison herds.
  • Most bison herds have evidence of domestic cattle

Why is this level of technology needed to help
manage bison populations?
  • Unlike other smaller wildlife species, we must
  • Cull (selectively remove) animals from herds
  • Manipulate sex ratios
  • Deal with disease issues
  • In some cases they are economically important
  • This sounds a lot like many African plains game
    and big game wildlife species

Diane Hargraves
Hybrids Happen
Some bison just look different?
So, why have bison recovered, with no or few
apparent genetic consequences from this major
population crash, when most other species, faced
with this degree of insult, seem to suffer
through long-term problems and/or became extinct?
  • There are multiple explanations
  • Previous (historic) population declines and near
    extinction events have purged bison genomes of
    many deleterious alleles.
  • Following the bottleneck on the late 1800s,
    surviving bison were found in isolated
    populations that encompassed a high frequency of
    the overall (pre-bottleneck) genetic variation.
  • Bison that survived the bottleneck retained
    genetic adaptability at important genes that
    influence fitness (the luck hypothesis).
  • Surviving bison population encountered an influx
    of new genetic variation at the apex of this
    bottleneck (hybridization with domestic cattle).

These studies of American Bison are the most
comprehensive genetics investigations of any
wildlife species
  • Now is the time to expand the use of genomics
    technologies African big game wildlife species

Opportunities for using genetic technologies to
insure healthy and robust African wildlife
populations that thrive and provide sustain
trophy hunting into the future
  • I am proposing two overall objectives
  • It is absolutely imperative to develop a
    systematic plan for collecting information from
    as many hunter killed wildlife species as
    possible. This should include high quality DNA
    samples, GPS location, disease / parasite status,
    age, sex, body conformation, etc. These effort
    should be internationally coordinated.
  • Based on the tremendous opportunities through the
    genome sequencing projects of economically
    important and/or domesticated animals such as
    cattle, house cats, horse and dogs, now is the
    time to develop novel and powerful genetic
    technologies for the conservation of related
    wildlife species.

Information and biological material from hunter
killed big game species
  • Organized in country through safari outfitters,
    professional hunters, conservation organizations
    and governmental wildlife agencies
  • Information could include
  • Specific details about that animal on a single
    necropsy / specimen data sheet
  • Biological materials should include
  • For DNA archiving
  • Whole blood sample on a Whatman FTA card
  • Hair follicle samples
  • Also, for genetically important animals, sterile
    tissue samples placed in media as a secondary
    source of DNA and possibly future nuclear
  • (as discussed yesterday by Dr. Paul Bartels from
    the National Zoological Gardens in South Africa)

  • Return to________________________________________
  • Please complete all of the fields possible or
  • Species/common name ____________________ Sex
    ______ Age ______ Date/time ___________
  • Country _______________ State/Providence
    _________________ Nearest city ________________
  • Name of park/property ___________________________
    Specimen field number ______________
  • GPS position ________________ Collector/Hunter
    name _________________________________
  • Collector/hunter email address ____
    ___________________________________ Method
  • Pharmaceutical and dose __________________________
    _______________ Digital photo(s) _____
  • Professional hunter/outfitters name/contact
    information ___________________________________
  • __________________________________________________
  • Samples Taken
  • Blood FTA card ______ Other blood sampled
  • Tissue Hair sample _____

Biological material collection whole blood on
FTA cards
FTA cards are a safe and fast media for saving
DNA samples from whole blood.
FTA cards for whole blood
Must setup and allow to dry.
After they are dry they can be kept at room
temperature for decades and will still provide
excellent DNA.
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Archiving hair follicles for DNA
However there are serious export/import issues
with any biological samples for scientific
  • USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
  • US Fish Wildlife Service
  • US Public Health Service
  • US Food and Drug Administration
  • US Customs Service
  • Possibly local and state health departments
  • Potentially international agencies and
  • Also possible legal considerations with
  • The Lacey Act
  • Endangered Species Act
  • African Elephant Conservation Act
  • Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act
  • Almost certainly in country agencies/organizations

All of these agencies and regulations can be
dealt with but it is time consuming and in some
cases expensive.
In the event that it is absolutely required to
import DNA samples, these permits can and will be
obtained.However, one solution could be to use
established collection facilities in Africa for
genetic samples.
  • Develop molecular technologies based on genome
    sequencing projects from closely related domestic
    species here in the US (Texas AM University)
    using DNA samples from African species that are
    already here in private holdings or zoos.
  • Transfer the application of this technology to
    existing laboratories in Africa such a such as
    those at the Faculty of Veterinary Science
    Onderstepoort, SA, the National Zoological
    Gardens or the Hans Hoheisen laboratories in
    Kruger National Park

DNA collection and storage - Research - Analysis
Actionable results
  • Developing these advanced genetic technologies
    through research in the US and then transferring
    the resulting knowledge, reagents, capabilities
    to outside laboratories could help simplify many
    of the legal issues with samples and in power
    education and research infrastructure in Africa.

The Facilities at Kruger National Park Hans
Hoheisen offices, laboratories and holding pens
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The African Wildlife Genome based research at
Texas AM University
  • My laboratory is includes modern molecular
    biology and DNA sequencing and genotyping core
    facility making it completely equipped to
    develop genomic technologies for any other
    wildlife species.
  • Initial Studies. Concentrating on two or three
    important African species, lions (Panthera leo),
    buffaloes (Syncerus caffe), and possibly white
    (Ceretotherium simum) and black rhinos (Diceros
    bivornis) we propose to develop the primary
    resources and methodology to allow for modern
    molecular genetic investigation for these and
    other related species.

Deliverables from these initial studies
  • These genomic technologies will allow for much of
    the same types of investigations as reported
    earlier with American bison.
  • High resolution microsatellite markers, single
    nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) based on
    microarray technologies and mitochondrial DNA
    sequencing and haplotyping.
  • Gene mapping studies for genetic traits of
    interest (body size, disease resistance,
    behavior, etc.)
  • Population genetic parameters (inbreeding,
    genetic diversity, geographic differences, etc).
  • Forensics technologies for species identification
    and DNA fingerprinting for individual animals.
  • Genetic integrity studies and the identification
    of hybridization between species or subspecies.
  • Identification of important individual animals
    for future nuclear transfer efforts in the event
    it is necessary to recover lost genetic diversity
    using cloning technologies.
  • Help reestablish wildlife populations in regions
    where game have been completely exterminated
    (Wildlife as an Economic Engine).

Dream no little dreams for they have no magic to
move mens souls
  • Dr. Norman Borlaug
  • Winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize for Peace and
    fellow Texas AM Professor

Funding for these efforts
  • Dallas Safari Club has provide initial funding to
    help get this effort started
  • The SCI foundation has asked for a full proposal
    in March
  • Looking to local chapters help inform their
    members and for support
  • Other wildlife conservation associations
  • US and international funding agencies

  • College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas AM
  • Dallas Safari Club
  • Dr. J. Lane Easter, Mr. Nigel Theisen, Mr. John
    Lochow and Mr. Gray Thornton
  • The Safari Club International and the Safari Club
    International Foundation for the opportunity to
    give this presentation and for considering
    proposals to conduct this work.

Contact information
  • James Derr, Professor
  • College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Texas AM University
  • College Station, TX 77845
  • This complete PowerPoint presentation is
    available at my faculty website