The Animal Genetic Resources (AnGR) Program was initiated in 2005 with a mandate to oversee ex situ and in situ conservation and sustainable utilization of AnGR in the country. The program has steadily grown in capabilities in animal gene banking, coordination and technical backstopping of in situ conservation and sustainable utilization activities of prioritized AnGR over the course of a decade. After the implementation of the Type Three project supported by the SDS fund in 2005, it was followed by the Integrated Livestock and Crop Conservation Project (ILCCP) funded by UNDP-GEF in the 10th FYP, which also upgraded the National Animal Genebank to a fully functional facility as well as supporting on farm conservation initiatives. Recent projects included the High Altitude Northern Areas of Bhutan (HANAS) project through World Bank-BTFEC support and the Asian Food and Agriculture Cooperation Initiative (AFACI) project which focused on on-farm conservation of Jakar sheep and value addition and improvement of AnGR in Bhutan respectively. Further, the protocol for cryopreservation of semen at the National Animal Genebank was validated through technical support from UNDP and FAO in 2011. Reports on the State of Animal Genetic Resources for food and agriculture were submitted to FAO towards formulating the Global Plan of Action for animal genetic resources in 2009 and 2010. The program is responsible for the management and collection of AnGR data (DAD-IS) and reporting on the state of AnGR in Bhutan to FAO. The Program also has a fully equipped DNA laboratory to undertake basic molecular research and refers samples for advanced genetic studies to the Animal Genetic Resources Research Center, National Institute of Animal Science and the Macrogen Inc. in Korea and the Laboratory of Racing Chemistry and the Kyoto University in Japan.
- Assess, document and furnish status reports on animal genetic resources for food and agriculture.
- Coordinate and implement on-farm conservation and sustainable use projects on AnGR.
- Serve as the national repository for AnGR germplasm.
- Develop policies and strategies for effective conservation and sustainable use of AnGR.
- Develop protocols linking in situ and ex situ AnGR conservation programs.
- Coordinate and implement targeted interventions for prioritized AnGR.
- Conduct research and studies on AnGR diversity to generate required information.
- Provide germplasm and associated information for breeding and utilization.
- Strengthen public awareness on the importance of AnGR for food and nutrition security.
- Promote regional and international linkages for technology transfer and effective conservation and management of AnGR.
The AnGR program is strengthening semen collections of nublang (local cattle breed), jakar (local sheep breed) and sibsoo sheep, different strains of poultry such as yubjaanaap, belochem, frizzle, short-legged (baylietey) and pigs (saphag). A safety back-up facility to store the duplicate samples of semen doses was established at NDRC Yusipang in 2016. Over 10,000 doses of semen in total from sheep, poultry and pig are cryopreserved. In the 11th FYP, the program also initiated DNA collection of nublang, yak and poultry breeds, as well as development and optimizztion of embryo collection of nublang.
On-farm conservation initiatives involved active engagement of local communities of Sipsoo in Samtse, Merak in Trashigang and Chumey in Bumthang for sheep; Sombaykha for Nublang; Gomdar in Samdrup Jongkhar and Udzorong in Trashigang for Saphag and Mendrelgang in Tsirang for indigenous poultry breeds to conserve pure line gene pool and increase production of local domesticated species. This has involved training on improvements in animal husbandry practices, assistance in group formation within communities, product diversification, value addition to local breeds, and exploration of incentives to promote traditional AnGR (such as the establishment of the Nublang Fund). The program also works closely with institutions including National Highland Development Center for yak conservation, College of Natural Resources for local poultry conservation, National Nublang Breeding Center for Nublang conservation, National Sheep Breeding Center for sheep conservation and National Dairy Research Center for activities involving embryo transfer technology and duplicate genebank.
The program has also produced a number of publications which include: Animal Genetic Resources of Bhutan (2008), Phenotypic and genetic parameters for milk yield in traditional Nublang cattle (Bos indicus) of Bhutan (2015), Phenotypic and genetic parameters for milk yield in traditional Nublang cattle (Bos indicus) of Bhutan (2015), Immunological tolerance of Bhutanese native chicken to Infectious Bursal Disease Virus infection (2016), Assessment of genetic diversity of Mithun (Bos frontalis) population in Bhutan using microsatellite DNA markers (2017), Morphological diversity of principle horse populations of Bhutan (2017), Decline of Jakar sheep population in pastoral communities of Bhutan: A consequence of diminishing utility, alternate income opportunities and increasing challenges (2017), and Morphological variations of native chicken types in backyard farms of Bhutan (2017).