One of our mission is to fill the knowledge gap about wildlife in Indonesia, and one of the ways to realize that is through conducting research activities which will benefit our conservation program in the field. Throughout these years, we have committed to accept students and/or researchers to conduct the research here in our facility, and we will continue to do so in the future. These are the scope of research that we can accommodate so far: Conservation medicine, Conservation genetic, Animal behaviour, Captive husbandry, and Environmental/conservation law.
You can also have a look into these following research works we have done so far:
Haematology study of eagles
A haematology examination is one of the most common and is an essential procedure to dig the physical health status of animals. Almost all physical problems can show changes through blood within cardiovascular system, such as inflammation, oedema, vasodilatation, etc. Therefore, a haematology examination can provide the best initial clue of the disease occurrence of the animals in the field, before further examinations like microbiology or the other clinical examinations taken place.
The most rehabilitated species in WRC Jogja is eagle, especially the Changeable-hawk Eagle and the Crested Serpent Eagle. That condition also applies to other wildlife rescue and/or rehabilitation centres in Indonesia, where the abundant presence of raptor species is common. Most eagles come as a result of either a chain of illegal wildlife trade, illegal hunting, or illegal ownership. Under those conditions, a veterinarian is challenged to save the animals arriving in the centre. Hence, a haematology examination here provides a massive help to diagnose the physical health status of the injured birds comprehensively.
However, there has been a gap regarding the haematology reference of some eagle species, either about the blood cell morphology or the normal blood reference interval. Veterinarians usually use the reference from other eagle species, notably those that are living overseas, to interpret the result of blood examinations. Such reference obviously may enhance bias of the laboratory diagnostic result. Thus, this project aims to fill the knowledge gap about the blood cell morphology and the normal blood reference interval of two eagle species commonly found here: a Crested Serpent Eagle and a Changeable-hawk Eagle.
This project involves steps such as blood collection, laboratory examinations which include both complete blood count and biochemistry, and statistical analysis. We are very lucky to have the opportunity to work together with the Department of Clinical Pathology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Universitas Gadjah Mada, a Pathology Department of Universitas Brawijaya, Animal Clinic of Gembira Loka Zoo Yogyakarta, and also Fauna and Flora Station of Yogyakarta Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA Yogyakarta).
Molecular sexing for monomorphic birds
Sex identification is crucial for an ex-situ wildlife conservation effort such as zoo, rescue and/or rehabilitation centre. This is especially more important for the monomorphic animals, including birds which are difficult to be sexed morphologically. Some popular sexing methods for birds are: vent sexing, individual size (in some birds male/female is bigger), or through the distinct appearance of feather colour (only for sexually dimorphic species). However, those methods are lacking in accuracy due to high subjectivity, meaning every operator may have different ability and perception toward the identification parameters. Instead, the molecular sexing provides the most accurate method for sex identification, where it directly determines the sex based on individual sex chromosome.
We employ the molecular detection procedure which includes sample (blood and feather) collection, DNA extraction, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), and DNA electrophoresis. The birds involved in this projects are: eagles, owls, buzzard, cassowary, yellow-crested cockatoo, Goffin’s cockatoo. We thank the Biochemistry Department of Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Universitas Gadjah Mada Yogyakarta for inviting us as a collaborator in this project.
Results showed that the molecular sexing method can be a gold-standard for sex identification of monomorphic birds using the specimen of blood and/or feather. The PCR results which were visualized through the gel electrophoresis showed a distinctive result where there is 1 DNA band for male (ZZ) and 2 DNA bands for female (ZW) birds. Later on, we utilized the results of this research to renew our animal database.
Investigation of blood parasites in eagles
The blood parasite case of wild birds in Indonesia is still under studied and under reported, even though the blood parasites can be fatal and potentially hamper the release rate of the birds in rehabilitation facility like ours. In conjunction with the haematology study on eagle, we try to investigate the kinds of blood parasites, especially haemoproteus species, which potentially infecting a Changeable-hawk and further affecting its rehabilitation-to-release success rate.
One option to identify the blood parasites is through the examination under microscope. However, such method is difficult to produce the specific result due to a various life cycle of blood parasites. Furthermore, many parasites may look similar under an ordinary microscope. Therefore, we chose to do molecular investigation through PCR method in this case.
Binturong is commonly found in captivity and often found circulating in the chain of illegal wildlife trade, despite its status as protected species. Authorities have frequently confiscated binturong from either poachers or illegal ownerships, and then transferred to either zoos or rescue center facilities. Such binturongs usually do not have clear information about their geographic origin, which hampers the center to proceed with reintroduction process. Usually, binturong origin is determined by its morphology. However, this method is highly biased because there is no comprehensive study on binturong morphology in Indonesia yet.
Genetic identification offers an accurate identification of the binturong geographic origin. There have been studies conducted on binturong genetics in the past, especially those that are in the zoo. Nonetheless, there is no clear genetic information for Java and Sumatra binturong species, and there is no significant update for subspecies in Kalimantan. Most of the binturong genetic studies only put them as a comparison to other species.
Our project aims to generate the genetic marker of binturong in Indonesia to assist the researchers and conservationists in determining the origin of binturong individuals they are working with. Later, genetic marker can act as a tool to improve the binturong conservation program such as rehabilitation, captive breeding, and species release. And we hope this all can start from our centre.
This project involves at least 40 binturong from all over Indonesia. We work together with many rescue and rehabilitation centres, even the zoo which housed binturong during this research period. Biological specimens in the form of blood and hair will be collected from each individual with prior immobilization procedure. The DNA of all collected specimens will be amplified on the segment of Cytochrome B encoding genes and COX-3 region, then subsequently sequenced and analysed using bioinformatics software. We teamed with the staff of Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Veternary Medicine, Universitas Gadjah Mada Yogyakarta for this project.
We welcome and encourage every single person, especially Indonesian nationality, who are willing to contribute to conservation through research in our facility. Please kindly check our research guideline in Bahasa here.