Evaluating the Importance of Biomaterials Banking: Converging Interests and Diversifying Opportunities for Conservation Efforts
Oliver A. Ryder, PhD
Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species, Zoological Society of San Diego, San Diego, CA, USA
There is currently an insufficient effort to bank biomaterials in the best interests of conservation science and animal health. In spite of the inadequacies, it is important to focus on successful efforts and the benefits they provide, even as the focus moves to opportunities to do more in the future. A more effective effort in animal health and conservation science can benefit from strategic programs to collect biomaterials and for linking those efforts with opportunities to contribute to the conservation of species in situ.
With ongoing declines in biodiversity and increasing difficulties in obtaining and transferring specimens across international boundaries, it seems plausible that there will never be greater opportunities to amass biomaterials resource collections than at the present time. Unfortunately, we may consider that in the future, captive and wild populations alike will be diminished in numbers, genetic diversity, or both.
Important studies of animal health and science, and human medicine will benefit from biomaterials collections made from exotic species, especially close relatives of domestic species and humans (e.g., chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas). Advances in genetic epidemiology, diagnostic methods, and the tailored design of therapeutic agents result from comparative studies and the application of an evolutionary perspective on host, pathogen interactions and proclivities to genetic disease. We can expect that a mutualism will exist due to the application of resources and technologies to species of economic interests and for human medicine that will find useful application in zoo and wildlife medicine.
New initiatives such as the Integrated Primate Biomaterials and Information Resource, an NSF-funded effort to collect and make available for distribution DNA and cell lines from primates offers the opportunity for zoos, primate centers, and field biologists to join forces and extend the opportunities for the utilization of biologic samples for a wide range of studies that will increase the knowledge of primate biology.
Some of our best efforts for assisting those in the future who wish to maintain and manage healthy populations and contribute vital information to assessments, monitoring, and management of wild populations will be to judicially bank samples that are now available to us.