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UN nuclear watchdog agency helps Bangladesh protect prized goats

UN nuclear watchdog agency helps Bangladesh protect prized goats

Black bengal goat
The United Nations atomic watchdog agency seeks to curb nuclear proliferation and stop weapons of mass destruction from falling into the hands of terrorists, right?

Right! But among its many less publicized multi-dimensional tasks it is also applying nuclear and molecular tools for DNA analysis to help protect more than 100 sheep and goat breeds, a total of nearly 1 billion animals that represent the most important livestock species in the Asian region, which are now threatened by patterns of land use.

Among the world’s poorest countries, Bangladesh is home to one of the richest treasures, prized black Bengal goats, but fallow lands for the dwarf-size animals to graze on are decreasing almost daily due to growing human population and the need to plant cereal crops.

Research supported by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is now helping Bangladesh plan and protect the goats’ future. Working with other countries in the Asian region, scientists are looking to learn more about black Bengal goats and other livestock.

“A specific aim is to build up the capacity of national agricultural research systems to conduct research in livestock genetics and breeding using modern methods of molecular science,” IAEA says in an update on the project, just one of the agency’s less publicized areas of work that crosses a host of fields from medical diagnosis and cancer treatment and isotope tracking of underground water to weather and climate studies and art restoration.

But the headlines go to IAEA’s efforts to curb nuclear weapons and its dealings with the nuclear programmes of Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and earlier Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Results of the FAO/IAEA research programme are contributing to scientific knowledge about animal health and reproduction underpinning Bangladesh’s efforts to help goat herders and farmers adapt to the changing environment. About 80 per cent of the country’s people live in the countryside, and raising goats and other livestock is a key part of their livelihood.

No one knows exactly how many goats graze in Bangladesh – some estimates run as high as 30 million. Together they provide about 30,000 tons of meat and 20 million square feet of hides and skins, besides milk and other products families depend upon.