Zoo turns to high-tech help for finding out the sex of some of its inhabitants

It can be extremely hard to distinguish the gender of some birds and animals. The solution, according to the zoo, is polymerase chain reaction technology. 

Shanghai Zoo has set up a new laboratory that can help to detect the gender of animals and prevent a bird flu outbreak.

The laboratory uses PCR, or polymerase chain reaction technology. This is used in molecular biology and other fields like agriculture and forensics needing DNA testing, to better conduct tests and diagnosis on animal diseases.

The technology has the advantage of high sensibility capability, convenience and efficiency, the zoo said.

It can be extremely difficult to determine the gender for some animals such as the ostrich, penguins and crane crowns because both genders feature the same colors and they differ only slightly in shape and genital organs, said Zhou Lichen, an animal expert.

"The most traditional ways of animal gender determination are genital organ comparison, chromosome analysis, and estrogen and testosterone testing in excrement, but they are not accurate, and they are time consuming and can cause harm to animals, affecting their reproduction," she said.

These flaws can all be tackled by PCR technology, she added.

It can also play a big role in the clinical detection of microbial pathogen infection.

The usual way to check infection relies on bacterial or viral culture techniques, microscopic examination and serology, but they are not time efficient and have low sensibility. "PCR technology can reduce the time from one week to two hours," said Zhou.

"We plan to conduct regular checks via PCR technology on birds in winter and spring, the peak time of bird flu outbreak, bird migration season, and when there is bird flu outbreak in neighboring countries, which can effectively eliminate the hazards of bird flu," she said. 

Ti Gong

The Shanghai Zoo celebrates orangutan Yuan Yuan's first birthday on Thursday. 

Ti Gong
Special Reports