|Little Known Asian Animals With a Promising Economic Future |
source ref: b18ase.htm
The Asian animals described in this report are a natural resource whose potential is barely glimpsed. They are virtually unknown to established livestock interests and there has been little thought to developing them as livestock. As a result, the research and trials that could lead to further use of these animals is scattered, small scale, and conducted outside the mainstream of livestock science, mainly by wildlife conservationists.
Yet these animals seem worth considering for use in husbandry in many tropical regions, especially where poor grazing and harsh environments limit the performance of conventional livestock. There is a pressing need for research to develop these species and to explore their potential. Only through rapid action can many of them be kept available for study and possible inclusion in agriculture.
One suggestion is that funds be provided to establish an Asian native-livestock research-support team. Its primary purpose would be to assist in the funding of research projects and to coordinate research being done in various Asian countries. The team's goal would be to establish a network of animal scientists based at institutions in Asia and elsewhere to work cooperatively on the region's little-known bovines and pigs. In this manner, relatively small sums of money could be used to stimulate and coordinate Asia-wide research on indigenous animals.*
The time has come for basic studies on each of the 15 animals discussed in this book. For each species, the following areas should be investigated:
· Reproductive requirements and fertility
· Nutritional requirements (such as food preferences, feeding strategies, and food utilization)
· Adaptability and environmental tolerance (for instance, water balance, sweat rate, and shade-seeking habits, as well as temperature, pulse, and respiration rates, both under normal conditions and heat stress)
. Management (including stocking rates and other production characteristics
· Genetic selection for calm temperament, quick growth, and other desirable qualities
· Crossbreeding to take advantage of hybrid vigor
· Social structure (for example population density and distribution, social organization, leadership, herding potential, aggressiveness of bulls)
· Habitat characteristics (behavior-habitat interactions and herd dynamics, for instance).
Studies are also needed on better utilization of products, such as milk, meat, hides, horn, and hair, from these animals.
Experimental transfer of fertilized eggs of all of these animals into domestic species should be explored with a view to establishing herds in secure and disease-free areas.
Efforts specific to domesticated and wild species, and to hybrids of these species, are discussed below. The report concludes with brief discussions of a few promising species not taken up in the body of the text.
Domesticated Species Improving Performance
Little data is available on the performance of the domesticated animals discussed in this report. Yet the main value of these species lies in the new and superior genes and gene combinations that can be adapted to animal production in the tropics.
Studies need to be conducted with the indigenous species and strains in their native countries to determine if they will respond to improved conditions with improved performance. These projects could provide opportunities for geneticists and animal breeders to improve livestock production while conducting challenging basic research. It would be helpful to establish studbooks of captive specimens and to select and breed for desirable genetic qualities.
Genetic improvement must be directed towards remedying production deficiencies. Methods include selection of superior breeding animals, crossbreeding, and combinations of selection and crossbreeding. Different genetic improvement techniques will be required for each species. Progress should be regularly monitored against the unselected animals and the domestic livestock breeds.
Tropical countries should import breeding stock to evaluate the performance of some of these Asian animals in the local environment. Strict quarantine procedures must, of course, be observed.
Special emphasis should be placed on the domesticated banteng of eastern Indonesia. These animals are already an important source of human food and they may have considerable potential for increasing production elsewhere.
Wild animals contribute extensively to the welfare of people and economies of developing countries. In many areas they supply much of the animal protein consumed. But the contributions they make are largely unrecorded, and local officials and aid agencies seldom regard wildlife as an economic resource. As a result, few developing countries have analyzed how their people use indigenous animals for subsistence, and few nutritional studies recognize "bushmeat," although large numbers of people eat it.
Wildlife's contribution justifies more detailed and precise evaluations. In many tropical regions few people even know what species are present, let alone in what numbers. Ecologists and animal scientists should be employed to identify and collect data on the fauna of the tropical forests and how it is used by local people. Their work will provide baseline information on the species present and on the potential utility of the undisturbed natural ecosystems.
All wildlife utilization must be based on a thorough knowledge of the resource, its numbers, the animals' condition, annual recruitment in the
various populations, and the seasonal movements of the herds. In addition, it is important to understand the interactions of the species with its habitat.
Thus, the immediate need is for action to assure the preservation of populations of these animals until research studies can be conducted.
In this regard, priority actions include the following:
· Establishing adequate preserves
· Providing total protection for remaining animals
· Preventing poaching.
With few exceptions, the wild species described in this report are under the pressures of agricultural and human expansion. Without efforts to preserve their habitats it will be difficult for these species to survive.
Developing Wildlife Resources
Governments cannot stop hungry people from hunting game, but they can use this impetus to help protect some indigenous animals as well as forest and woodland habitats. Fostering the production and supply of wild animals such as those described in this book could open up a new: source of meat and other products, particularly for subsistence farmers in remote areas. In the last analysis, this may be the only way of protecting and maintaining these animals and developing local awareness of their value.
International economic development organizations have traditionally shown little interest in wildlife or wildlife habitats. Yet maintaining these animals and their habitats is crucial to the continuing supply of many indigenous food animals, the most important of which are often the smaller ones that flourish in secondary growth. And the forests that support wildlife also protect some of the huge investments that AID, the World Bank, and other other agencies have made to help developing countries. The forest is the sponge that absorbs the water from tropical rains. Without trees covering the watersheds, heavy rains cause rushing water that erodes the land, despoils highways, silts up dams and reservoirs, knocks out bridges, and inundates towns, villages, and farm fields.
In principle, the farming of tropical wildlife could become a force in preventing clear-felling of the tropical forests. Rational utilization of tropical animals offers productive alternative use of the land. In some cases, the farming of indigenous animals can fit smoothly into tropical habitats and into traditional village life, because the livestock and its needs are usually familiar to local people and are often ingrained in their traditions.( For successful examples see companion reports nos. 44 and 45, Butterfly Farming in Papua New Guinea and Crocodiles as a Resource for the Tropics.
Hybridization may offer new prospects for using underexploited tropical animal resources. This is a speculative notion, but it deserves serious attention.
Crossbreeding between the animals mentioned in this report holds exciting possibilities for expanding livestock options in the tropics. Some of the crosses, known or envisaged, are:
· gaur x cattle
· banteng x cattle
· kouprey x cattle
· yak x cattle
· yak x banteng
· anoa x water buffalo
· tamaraw x water buffalo
· domestic pig x warty pigs
· warty pigs x bearded pig
Care must be taken, however, to guard against the dilution of wild genes by the escape of hybrid or interbreeding domestic species, or the establishment of feral hybrid populations.
International Exchange of Pig Germ Plasm
Present veterinary restrictions effectively prevent the movement of pigs between most countries. Relatively few species of wild pigs are therefore maintained in zoos outside their countries of origin. This stifles the promising potential for the species described in Part III, as well as for captive-breeding safeguards and research on the endangered species. It is important that attempts be made to identify channels for the future establishment of viable captive stocks both within Asia and elsewhere. Transfer of embryos should be verified as a means of permitting disease-free movement across frontiers.
Species Not Covered in this Report
This project, which began as a short report on banteng, quickly developed momentum as it brought in suggestion after suggestion of further species. Through pressures of time and budget, it was not possible to take up all of these interesting animals. Some of the omitted ones are listed below.
Takin (Budorcas taxicolor).* A heavily built, Southeast Asian hoofed mammal of the family Bovidae, the takin lives in small herds in the mountains, often above timberline. Though robust and short-legged, it can move about quickly and easily over difficult slopes. It stands up to about 1 m at the shoulder and has a shaggy yellowish- to blackish-brown coat. Both sexes have heavy horns that turn outward from the center of the forehead and then curve up and backward.
Goral (Naemorhedus goral).* This small Asian goatlike bovine has slightly backward curving cylindrical horns and a coarse brownish-grey coat. It is related to the chamois and serow (see below) but is distinguished from them by peculiarities in skull form, as well as by smaller size, shorter horns, and the absence of face glands. Gorals are native to a vast area, ranging from the Himalayas to eastern Siberia.
Serow (Capricorhis sumatrensis). The serow has been called a "goatantelope." Found in Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula, Vietnam, Thailand, Burma, the eastern Himalayas, and China, it lives on forest-clad slopes, such as the mountains of southern China that are the home of the giant panda. Serows have coarse black hair, long pointed ears, a distinct mane, and short, backward pointing horns.
Native species of goats are also valuable genetic resources of Asia and examples include ibex (Capra ibex), markhor (Capra falconeri), and bharal (Pseudois nayaur). There are also various species of sheep, including the various races of argalis (Ovis ammon), which form small herds in the mountains, often above timberline. Although robust and short-legged, these animals can move about quickly and easily over difficult slopes. Soviet animal breeders apparently are exploring some of the possibilities of using argalis in animal husbandry. They are crossing domestic sheep with arkhar (Ovis ammon karelini) to produce a commercially viable hybrid.
The marketable size of lamb might be increased appreciably to provide larger, leaner cuts of meat by crossing domestic sheep with the Marco Polo sheep (Ovis ammon polii), which is as big as deer and has a mature body weight of 400-500 pounds. Marco Polo sheep meat is reported to have none of the "mutton" favor of domestic sheep. Thus, crosses might enhance consumer acceptance of sheep meat.
Asia also has several species of deer that could have been included.§ The musk deer (Moschus moschiferus) is now domesticated in China for musk production and is a resource with a promising future. Also, sambar deer (Cervus unicolor), Asia's largest deer, may prove useful in husbandry. Several deer species are being farmed in New Zealand and ruse deer (Cervus rusa), which are native to South and Southeast Asia, are being farmed in Mauritius, Australia, and Papua New Guinea for meat and medicinal by-products. Two small, goat-sized Asian deer, the hog deer (Cervus porcinus) and the barking deer (Muntiacus muntjak), may also be worth considering.