Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The Global Goat Gene Pool Seriously Threatened

BY: Dr.Y.Bala Murali Krishna
New Delhi,Feb 6(2013): World's many breeds of goat,which have been a great source of rich pritein,priced wool besides milk for people in the impoverished countries, are facing a serious threat of extinction.
India,China and Mangolia where cashmere goats have been reared for genertions for their wool, are no exception.
The alarm bell was sounded for the first time by researchers of the Asturias(Spain) based Regional Service of Agro-Food Research and Development(SERIDA) in their first monographic study tackling the global impact of this species.
The researchers presented their study “Goat grazing, its interactions with other herbivores and biodiversity conservation issues" in Small Ruminant Research.
The scientists had analysed the situation of the global goat population,taking into account the state of different breeds, the multiple implications of their conservation, the interaction with other animal species (wild and domestic) and the consequences of goat grazing from an environmental point of view.
"The risk of the gene pool of the goat disappearing has increased due to intensive animal husbandry systems that use a very limited number of breeds. Strangely enough, the biggest loss in the genetic resources of indigenous animals has been observed in Europe, although the situation is unknown in many areas," according to Rocío Rosa García, researcher at SERIDA and coauthor of the study.
The bad reputation given to goats stems from one of its main virtues: it has an extraordinary capacity to adapt to the most difficult of environmental conditions in places where other domestic livestock species would not survive.
"It is a reality that the grazing of these animals can cause damaging effects on the environment but ecosystems become overloaded because of inadequate practices of handling," say scientists.
The largest number of goats can be found in the poorest of countries and especially those which have difficult environmental conditions and mountainous, desert and semi-desert regions, according to FAO.
"In poor regions, poor communities are commonplace and often the goat is the only source of animal protein in their diet," explains Rosa García.
The team led by Koldo Osoro Otaduy, manager of the Animal Production Systems Area at SERIDA, undertook a large part of the field work in areas in which the role of the goat is very relevant and have certain similarities with hostile environments in other parts of the world.
"Many national and international projects have been carried out in less-favoured areas, like the Asturian mountains which are home to steep slopes, poor soil, an aging population and a high risk of depopulation and abandonment of traditional activities," the researchers said.
Poor handling of grazing, which does not consider the livestock species and their most fitting habitat, is the main cause of the damaging effects that goats can cause on the environment,the study says.
Uncontrolled growth of the cashmere goat to increase production of its prized wool,had in some cases,ovefloaded the ecosystems. This has not only affected vegetation but also certain indigenous species in India, China and Mongolia.
On the otherhand, the study in some cases noted that the species plays an important role in environmental conservation,as the goats have been used in the fight against fires in areas dominated by bushes and in controlling exotic vegetation plagues that could put ecosystems at risk.
"We wanted to perform a global review, taking into account very different regions of the world, from the Himalayan peaks to tropical areas, and analysing to what extent the goat competes with local fauna in each region and whether it interferes with the survival of the most sensitive species," says Rosa García.//EOM//


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