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Module 1: Distribution, Abundance and Measurement of Threatened Species

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Ex-situ Conversation

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We move forward with management of threatened species.
(Refer Slide Time: 00:19)

Today, we will have a look at Ex-situ conservation.

(Refer Slide Time: 00:20)

We looked in the previous lecture at the differences between in-situ and ex-situ
conservation. In-situ is onsite conservation; conservation within the natural habitat such
as construction of reserves, national parks or wildlife sanctuaries and ex-situ conservation
is conservation that is off site, outside the national environment such as zoos or aquarium.
(Refer Slide Time: 00:46)

So, if we have in-situ conservation option that is available with us, why should we go with
ex-situ conservation? What is the requirements of setting up an ex-situ conservation
facility? Well, it is required for critically endangered species that require a very heavy

amount of attention, because we have very few number of individual that are left, because
it provides urgent intervention to these species.
For instance, if you have a species that has say around 20,000 individuals left in the world.
So, you probably will not require an ex-situ conservation facility to conserve that particular
species, because that can be taken care of by the in-situ conservation facilities. But,
suppose you have an individual that has only around 15 individuals that are left in the
world.
Those 15 individuals cannot be left in the wild, because in absence of a very large amount
of attention to those species, probably those 15 individuals would die off in a very short
period of time. Because, probably there are people who want to poach those animals a very
good example is that of German rhinoceros. We had these rhinoceros in Java and such
huge was the demand to poach these animals that even though we had very few numbers
left and it was very extensively documented that we have very few numbers people went
there and continued the poaching.
In the case of ex-situ conservation, we can take some of these individuals out, and we can
give them an extra amount of protection, an extra amount of care. We can protect them
from all different diseases so that at least this species continues to survive. At the same
time, ex-situ conservation also is required so that you can bring in more funds for the cause
of conservation.
For instance, if people come into a zoo, if people get can come to an aquarium and see that
there are so many varieties of fishes that are there are available in this world. So, people
would get encouraged towards the cause of conservation. They would become champions
of conservation themselves just by observing all these different species. So, that is also
another importance of setting up an ex-situ conservation facility because for those species
that are living very deep inside the forest or very deep inside the oceans, it becomes very
difficult for a large population to go and visit those species, to know more and more about
those the species. But, if you can bring some individuals out, then they also get a chance
to see those individuals.
What is the process of setting up an ex-situ conservation facility? Firstly, you designate
areas with suitable conditions and facilities are created for in those particular areas, then
these facilities include things such as feeding, enclosure, veterinary support and so on.

Then, you select certain individuals of these species, move them into these designated
areas for their survival and breeding and if necessary, after a while, some individuals from

these conservation facilities can be then taken out and then released into the wild in the in-
situ conservation areas. So, that is an optional step that can be done in certain-situations.

(Refer Slide Time: 04:05)

Ex-situ conservation provides certain advantages especially over in-situ conservation. It
allows better control of variables such as climate, disease, diet and so on. So, for instance,
if you have a snake species, snakes prefer to live in environments that are neither too hot
nor very cold.

(Refer Slide Time: 04:30)

So, in a snake facility in herpetarium, you will see that there is this chamber and this
chamber would probably have a small light bulb here. Now, this light bulb not only
provides light, but it also provides quite a lot of warmth to the animal, then you will have
small trees that would be growing here with lots of branches. So, if this particular snake
wants to live in a more warm environment, it will probably come and reside here, if it
wants if it does not want the warmth, it will probably go and reside here.
So, in a very small area you can provide all different sorts of facilities to the animal,
different temperature control; you can even have things such as humidity control in this
area. So, it should not be a very wet, because if it is very wet then probably your snake
might get might start getting some fungal infections. It must not be very dry; because in
that case it is a skin might start getting cracked. So, in this very small area, you can give a
very good amount of climate control.
Secondly, you can have a very good control over diseases and diet. So, you can ensure that
your animal is neither overfed nor is it underfed. You can also ensure that your animal is
not suffering from any diseases, it does not have any ectoparasites on its body. Probably a
veterinarian would go and observe these snakes and if there are ectoparasites on it is body,
then probably it will be given some treatment for that. It is very crucial if you have very
few number of snakes of that particular species that are left in the world, so they need to
be given more amount of attention and care.

It provides opportunity for close observation to better understand the species and the
proximate causes of its extinction. So, proximate causes are those causes that are nearby,
so, the near causes of its extinction. So, for instance, you can observe that in this small
area, you see that these particular snakes hunt at say a very particular time.
Suppose, these snakes have a behavior, that they are only doing their hunting say 4 to 5 in
the evening. And if that happens and we have observed this behavior here in the in-situ
and in the ex-situ conservation facility, then we can make a correlation that are in-situ
conservation facilities such as the reserves are not providing good habitats for this
particular species because we have our tourists inflow during 4 to 5 pm. And if that be the
situation the learnings from the ex-situ conservation facility, the learnings about the
behavior of the species can then be used in the in-situ conservation facilities as well. That
is another advantage of setting up in ex-situ conservation facility.
Thirdly, it permits intensive interventions including in-vitro fertilization, embryo transfer
and so on. So, these are intensive interventions. Even, in the case of this particular snake
you might go and have a collection of its eggs, collection of the embryos, you might try to
put them into hatcheries, you can give individual attention to all the offsprings. So, this is
the utility of setting up an ex-situ conservation facility or these are the advantages.
(Refer Slide Time: 07:36)

At the same time, the ex-situ conservation facility also has a number of disadvantages. It
does not prevent loss of habitat, because you are conserving these species in this very small

area, but then it is possible that its original habitat gets lost during the process. So, you are
conserving these individuals, but the whole habitat became lost and so, now, these animals
are destined to live in ex-situ conservation forever, because they do not have any habitats
left at all.
Secondly, it can be planned for only a few species at a time, it is extremely cost intensive.
You cannot have an ex-situ conservation facility for all the species that are found in a
natural habitat. Only a few of them can be brought and given suitable conditions and
studied and kept in there ex-situ conservation facility. Some wild behaviors may be lost,
because even in the case of your snake, the snake would not learn how to catch its prey in
the wild situations. Because, it is getting mice that are kept into its chamber at fixed times
every day or your tiger might not even learn how to hunt, because it is getting a dead
animal, that is added carcass that is kept into its enclosure every day. So, a number of wild
behaviors get lost in this process.
Captive-bred and raised individuals may find it difficult when reintroduced, because they
have lost a number of their behaviors. It may increase chances of inbreeding if not planned
properly. Because, you only have a few number of individuals that are kept in the ex-situ
conservation facility, again because it is costly and it requires space and it requires a very
huge amount of interventions. So, if you have a few number of individuals, the mating
between those might lead to inbreeding and then as expectedly, it is extremely costly.
(Refer Slide Time: 09:22)

The examples of ex-situ conservation include zoos, aquariums, captive breeding facilities,
botanical gardens, bambuseta; bambuseta are areas where different bamboo species are
grown, arboreta; where different tree species are grown, seed banks, cryopreservation
facilities that cater to tissue cultures, sperm banks, ova banks and so on. These are all
different examples of ex-situ conservation facilities.
(Refer Slide Time: 09:51)

Now, it is not possible or it is not worthwhile to have an ex-situ conservation facility for
all the species. For instance, in this particular paper compared the population growth rates
in-situ, that is in white and in ex-situ, that is in black conditions for different species.
Here we observe that for certain species, we see that the ex-situ conservation facility
provides a better environment for the animals. Because, the growth rate in ex-situ is much
greater than that in the in-situ conditions. Whereas, in certain organisms the in-situ growth
rate is much greater and when you put the animal in an ex-situ conservation facility, the
population does not grow as fast. So, it does not make any sense to keep this animal in the
ex-situ conservation facility, you will have to go for the in-situ conservation facility only.

(Refer Slide Time: 10:39)

Besides, if we compare the cost between in-situ and ex-situ conservation, we find that
normally the cost for the ex-situ conservation facility is much greater. For some organisms
it is a little greater for some organisms, it is very high whereas, for some organisms it
might even be lesser in certain circumstances. So, if you have a very small species, for
example, if you have a species of rodents you can grow them in this particular room itself
whereas, in the while you would require a forest that needs to be used for that particular
purpose.
(Refer Slide Time: 11:16)

So, if you compare the cost; the cost have a lot to do with the size of the organism. For

organisms with a low body size, the ex-situ costs are typically lesser than that of the in-
situ cost. Whereas, for larger sized organisms the ex-situ cost are much greater than that

of the in-situ cost.
Typically we can say that this is the size range within which your captive breeding might
be cheaper. And in these circumstances if the organism is responding well to captive
breeding then ex-situ conservation makes a lot of sense as compared to in-situ
conservation.
(Refer Slide Time: 11:50)

However, we need to note that there are certain genetic implications of ex-situ
conservation. One is stochastic sampling of alleles. When samples are taken for a seed
bank for instance, the sampling may select some alleles while discard some other alleles,
in a stochastic manner, in a random manner or in a chance manner. Thus, some amount of
national variation will get lost in the sampling process, this needs to be compensated by
extensive sampling from different geographical locations and a meticulous collection of
natural variations in the form of alleles.
So, what this is saying is that for different organisms, you have some amount of variation
that is present between different individuals of the species. For instance, even in our case
different human beings will have different heights, they will have different skin color,
different eye color, different color of the hair and so on.

Now, if you are selecting a few individuals for your ex-situ conservation facility, then
because by definition it is a very costly process and because by definition you are
constrained by the size and you will only keep a very few number of individual into your
ex-situ conservation facility, so when you are selecting individuals, then probably are a
number of traits will get lost.
For instance, in the case of tigers, if you look at tigers of Sundarbans; sundarbans is a very
marshy area and tigers have to do a lot of swimming. And so, it is typically seen that the
tigers there are much lighter as compared to tigers of Madhya Pradesh, which live
predominantly in a very dry environment and they also have a very large body size.
Now, if you set up in ex-situ conservation facility for say tigers and if you only selected
tigers from Sundarbans or only selected tigers from Madhya Pradesh, then the other
variations that are present in the natural population will get lost. To compensate for that it
is essential that, you go out and look at different variations that are present in the
population and make an active attempt to bring all those variations into your ex-situ
conservation facility. So, that is one generating implication.
Second implication is that you observe erosion of genetic variation in the absence of
natural selection. So, in the ex-situ conservation facility all the individuals are getting
sufficient food, all the individuals are getting sufficient care, veterinary care, medicines
and so on. So, there would be some amount of genetic variation that becomes lost because
you are not actively selecting for those genetic variations as is done in the case of natural
selection.
For instance in the case of tigers, the natural selection would select for those individuals
that are able to hunt properly. Whereas, if you keep your animals in the zoo generation
after generation because you are not selecting for those particular variations, some of those
variations might get lost, after a few generations.
Third is genetic correlations or pleiotropy. For example, some gene may increase
cryopreservation stability, but decrease the number of seeds produced. Then selection of
plants producing seeds with better cryopreservation stability will also result in selection of
plants with less number of seeds, which would be antagonistic to the objectives of
reintroduction.

What it says is that when you are setting up an ex-situ conservation facility, then the
environment that you are providing to the organisms in the ex-situ conservation facility
are very different from what you are providing in the in-situ conservation facility or in
their natural habitat.
(Refer Slide Time: 15:24)

For instance, if you have a plant that is found in different heights in the mountain, and
suppose you are setting up an ex-situ conservation facility in this particular area. Now,
what you are doing is that you started by looking at different variations, you brought all of
these plants into your area and then you started growing them. So, you brought these seeds,
you went ahead and planted those in your ex-situ conservation area, and then you took out
those plants that were giving out the largest number of seeds and then you store those
seeds.
What happens in that case is that because you can have a trait that is regulating the number
of seeds that is being produced by the plant and is probably also regulating some other
trait. So, by selecting for those plants that are giving out more number of seeds, you are
also selecting for some other trait.
Now, that some other trait might not be useful for the plant in a natural conditions. So,
probably when you were doing an in-situ conservation, so, that particular trait was not
being selected, that was not useful to the plants, but when you are shifting it to the ex-situ
conservation facility, so in that case that particular trait is now getting selected because of

the pleiotropic effect, because the same gene is regulating more than one traits in this
organism.
If we have a situation of pleiotropy, then it is possible that we might be selecting for those
traits that are not useful to the plants in the in-situ conservation scenario or in the national
habitat. So, later on when we use these seeds and we plant them out in the natural habitat
to restock the population, then it is possible that all of these plants would die off. So, that
is also another genetic implication of ex-situ conservation.
(Refer Slide Time: 17:12)

And the fourth one is the genotype-environment interactions. Those genotypes showing
favorable phenotypes in the ex-situ conservation environment may not show favorable
phenotypes when put backward re-introduction. So, like coming back to our example of
these plants that were growing in the hills. Now, probably the environment that you have
here is very much correlated with the environment that you have in this particular area.
Now, your plants grow in these areas, they are not growing in this area. Now, when you
are taking these seeds out and you are growing them in your ex-situ conservation facility,
then it is possible that we are only selected for selecting for those plants that are able to
grow well in this particular environment and not in these particular environments.
Later on, when you put your plants back into the wild, it is possible that they might not
show good results, which is because of the genotype environment interactions. So, those

genotype types showing favorable phenotypes in the ex-situ conservation environment
may not show favorable phenotypes when put back for re-introduction.
It is also possible that when you are looking for say seeds, you are looking for seed
production; you want to have those plants that involve the most amount of seeds. When,
you are putting them into your environment of ex-situ conservation, then the number of
seeds that are being produced by every individual is very different from what it would
have produced when it was there in its natural habitat.
Because of this genotype environment interaction, you might be selecting for a wrong
individual or an individual that is not the best fit for release when it is released back into
the environment. So, that is also another implication.
(Refer Slide Time: 19:04)

Let us look at three ex-situ conservation facilities in detail. These are zoos, botanical
gardens, and seed banks and cryopreservation facilities, to understand what these ex-situ
conservation facilities are, how do they work, what do we do there.

(Refer Slide Time: 19:17)

Let us begin with Zoos.
(Refer Slide Time: 19:20)

Now, zoos are defined as, “Zoo” means an establishment, whether stationary or mobile,
where captive animals are kept for exhibition to the public and includes a circus and rescue
centers, but does not include an establishment of a licensed dealer in captive animals. Now,
this is the definition of zoo under the wildlife protection act 1972.
Zoo is any establishment, it can be stationary or it can be mobile. So, you can even have
mobile zoos where animals are taken from one place to the other place. And in this

establishment captive animals are kept for exhibition to the public. So, the main purpose
is to show them to the public and it includes a circus and rescue centers.
So, if you have a circus; A circus by definition is a zoo and will be regulated by the same
rules as govern the zoos and it also includes the rescue centers. So, rescue centers are areas
where you bring animals that are say diseased or say that are suffering from some injuries
or that have strayed out and you bring them into an area to treat those animals and probably
later release them into the wild or probably keep them there in captivity for a very long
time. So, rescue centers are also zoos under this definition. And it does not include an
establishment of a licensed dealer in captive animals.
(Refer Slide Time: 20:49)

Now, zoos are governed using master plans. So, master plan is a document that will tell
you what are the facilities that are available? What are the objectives of management and
how are we going to attain those objectives of management?

(Refer Slide Time: 21:07)

So, zoos are governed under master plan. A number of zoos are involved in conservation
breeding. Conservation breeding is where you do some amount of captive breeding of the
animals to conserve their species.
(Refer Slide Time: 21:21)

And for these conservation breedings, there are also studbooks that are maintained.
Studbook is a document that tells you, the genetic ancestry of any particular individual.
These are important to ensure that you do not breed between individuals that are very
closely related to each other.

To prevent situations of inbreeding depression you maintain these documents, which tell
you that for any particular individual who was its mother, who was its father, who were
was the mothers’s relatives ( In the case of the mother, who was the father of the mother,
who was the mother of the mother, in the case of the father; who was the mother of the
father, who was the father of the father) and so on.
So, it maintains a genetic ancestry of all the animals. If you want to conduct captive
breeding between 2 individuals and if you find that both of these individuals share an
ancestor in the near past, so, in that case you will not go for a breeding between these
individuals. Now, to understand what we do in a zoo, we will look at the case study of
Mysore Zoo.
(Refer Slide Time: 22:28)

In a zoo the animals are provided with conditions that best suit their requirements and that
best suit their behaviors. For instance, in the case of these tigers, they are given a plain
area that has ample number of trees to provide shade, that has these grasses, that has this
waterfall to provide cooling comfort. In the case of their enclosures, they are given these
logs so that their scratching behavior that they normally show in the wild to mark their the
territories and so on are also maintained in these areas.

(Refer Slide Time: 23:02)

Feeding is a very important part of maintaining any animal and so, like these cobras are
being given these white colored mice that are bred for this purpose. Then you also maintain
a very good amount of sanitation in your area so that all the fruits and vegetables that are
brought for different animals are washed, cleaned, cut and then served to the animals.
(Refer Slide Time: 23:31)

And then feeding is done in a very timely manner and it is done with a lot of precaution.
So, this is the outer portion of the enclosure of a tiger and here we have this gate and this
person is opening up this gate so that the animal can get inside. And inside you have

already put the meat that needs to be given to the tiger. When you open this gate from
outside, the animal is able to reach to the inside room and is able to feed.
Now, these feeding times, the amount of feed that needs to be given, the timing of the feed,
the regularity of the feed, all are very carefully governed in a zoo.
(Refer Slide Time: 24:11)

And this is done not only for the indigenous animals, but also in the case of exotic animals,
they have very exotic requirements. So, a number of plants that a giraffe eats are, may not
be available in India. So, giraffe might be given some special food to take care of it is
dietary requirements. Similarly for zebras, for cheetahs and so on.

(Refer Slide Time: 24:33)

And all of these are maintained in the form of a documentation. So, the feed charts will be
maintained, when an animal was treated in a veterinary facility, what was it treated for,
what kinds of diseases did it have, what are the kinds of vaccinations that are given to this
animal are all properly documented.
(Refer Slide Time: 24:54)

And then you also have a number of facilities for providing veterinary care to these
animals. So, we looked at this example of a squeeze cage. So, in a squeeze cage, the animal
is brought inside to this cage and then these balls are then moved together. So, that the

animal gets squeezed between the walls and then you can very easily handle this animal,
if you want to take out a blood sample for laboratory analysis or if you want to give it
some injection of an antibiotic or so on. So, it can be handled in that way.
You also have facilities for doing X-rays of animals, for performing surgeries on these
animals, you have an operating theatre and so on. So, all these different facilities are
maintained for the benefit of these animals.
(Refer Slide Time: 25:40)

Then, not only are these animals provided with these facilities, but also their behavior is
also studied in these ex-situ conservation facilities. So, research becomes an integral part
of an ex-situ conservation facility so that we learn more and more about these animals and
these learnings can be made use of in the in-situ conservation facilities as well.
And not only is research done, but at the same time in-reach is also done. So, you also call
experts from different areas and you ask them what more can be done for these animals.
You also maintain a number of samples for these animals. So, a number of embryos that
were aborted or the shells of the eggs of different birds from which the young ones have
hatched, they are also kept here in a curated manner.

(Refer Slide Time: 26:31)

At the same time ex-situ conservation facilities play a very important role as areas where
we can look out for ecofriendly alternatives. So, they also become areas for
experimentation. If you observe some ecofriendly mode of transport that you can use in

these areas and probably some of these learnings can also be translated back into the in-
situ conservation facilities.

(Refer Slide Time: 26:55)

Then, we also work on a number of other projects such as how to convert say dung into
manure, how to reduce the parasitic load that is there in the dung so that it can be made
use of in other places and so on. Such other activities are also done.
(Refer Slide Time: 27:13)

Now, a very important role of zoo is that they permit people to come and visit and observe
the animals. Caring of people also becomes a very important part. For instance, you will
observe these notices. So, you have disable friendly environments, you have even
wheelchairs that are available in these areas, you have facilities for drinking water, you
have facilities for doctors, you have facilities for golf carts so that people can move in
these areas, you have places for people to sit and so on. So, the ex-situ conservation
facilities also need to cater not just to the needs of the animals, but also to the needs of the
human beings.

(Refer Slide Time: 27:58)

And in that case, image building, revenue, ticketing also play a very important part.
(Refer Slide Time: 28:04)

Also in the case of ex-situ conservation facilities, you can also have facilities such as these
areas where you grow, where you cultivate orchids or an in house aviary or an open aviary,
on an area where you have cultivation of cacti. All these cactuses are brought from
different areas and they are cultivated in this area so that you are able to conserve this
cactuses well. So, different organisms are kept in the ex-situ conservation facilities for
their conservation.

(Refer Slide Time: 28:36)

Zoos also include the rescue centers. An example of a rescue center is this rescue center at
Agra. This is the bear rescue facility, in which any bears that are orphaned or that have
been rescued from kalanders are brought to this area.
(Refer Slide Time: 28:55)

They are provided large enclosures in which they can lead their life, they are provided with
ample amount of food and care and nutrition and so on.

(Refer Slide Time: 29:08)

Another rescue facility is that of the lion rescue facility that is there in Bhopal or turtle
rescue facility that is there in Dwarka.
(Refer Slide Time: 29:12)

Now, in this rescue facility, the eggs of the turtles are brought to these rescue facilities,
because turtles have this habit that they come to the sea beaches and there they make a
nests and there they lay their eggs.

With time, we have observed that there are a number of street dogs or pariah dogs that
come into these nests and eat up the eggs. So, when that happens the population of turtles
suffers a decline.
(Refer Slide Time: 29:46)

To avoid that, what people do in this rescue facility is that they bring the eggs from the sea
beaches and then in this covered enclosure where you have these wire meshes all around
so that dogs cannot enter into this area. There they make a hole in the form of the nest and
there they keep all these eggs inside these areas. And once the turtles have hatched, so,
then they are moved into these in house areas so that they can grow to a particular size and
after that they are released back into the seas.

(Refer Slide Time: 30:22)

Now, in the zoos, it is also important that you need to pay a very huge amount of attention
to the behavior of the animals. Here what we are observing is a stereotyped behavior. What
this elephant is doing is that it is just moving right and left in this repetitive manner,
because it is getting a sense of boredom.
(Refer Slide Time: 30:48)

When that happens, you need to provide the animal with certain amount of behavioral
enrichment. This animal should have something to do. So, behavioral enrichment also
forms a very important part of the zoos as part of the ex-situ conservation measures.

(Refer Slide Time: 31:02)

The second ex-situ conservation facility that we will discuss is a Botanical garden.
(Refer Slide Time: 31:05)