The nature and animal park Terra Natura Benidorm has participated in a study that will allow a large-scale genetic follow-up of mammals, which belong to the group of carnivorous animals. Through this scientific monitoring, the project aims to preserve and conserve the biodiversity of these specific species, which according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, almost half of these animals - 45.2% to be precise - are currently threatened.
The role of carnivores in the balance of ecosystems is essential, as they occupy a higher position in the food chain that develops in these environments. For this reason, it is necessary to implement conservation actions based on monitoring that can be standardized and applied to help maintain animal populations in natural environments.
As part of the study, Terra Natura Benidorm has extracted blood and tissue samples from the group of dholes (Cuon alpinus) living in its facilities to be analysed in the molecular ecology laboratory of the Doñana Biological Station - CSIC, located in Seville. The participation of the nature park in this project is part of the strategic lines of this centre, focused on promoting research and conservation of wildlife and its habitats.
Through this type of research, zoos contribute to preserving the well-being and continuity of wild animals. With the data obtained in this study, in which other European zoos have collaborated, a panel with the nuclear loci, which determines the position of a gene or a genetic marker, of the species examined will be drawn up in order to evaluate genetic diversity.
The project, headed by Giovanni Forcina (CIBIO-InBIO, University of Porto) and coordinated by Jennifer Leonard (Estación Biológica de Doñana - CSIC), in its first phase has analysed a panel of 30 loci in Iberian carnivores of different families. The panel tested is suitable for investigating genetic issues in these animal populations. The second phase, in which Terra Natura Benidorm collaborates, tries to extend the initial sample with other carnivorous species such as dholes.
This study opens a new door towards the evaluation of genetic diversity and the standardization of molecular tools to carry out the evolution and monitoring of biological diversity.