To ethically shoot ballistics at a sea lion scientists had to first trial the method on dead animals.
Modern techniques mean genetic information can be sourced from hair samples so sticky hair-pulling darts are now used to gather DNA in the wild.
From such samples, scientists can explore a species' population, genetic health and variability, its mating system and whether or not a particular gene causes infertility.
But as it becomes increasingly possible, ethical decisions must be made about whether extinct species should be brought back to life or if scientists should selectively breed or modify the genetic make-up of animals to save them.
So if you modify the Panda genome to save it and in doing so make it red and hairless, have you rescued Pandas or created something new?
BBC4 science presenter and geneticist Dr Adam Rutherford discusses conservation genomics with researchers in Dunedin.
Dr Catherine Collins: Department of Anatomy, University of Otago.
Professor Neil Gemmell: Department of Anatomy and The Gemmell Lab, University of Otago
Dr Michael Knapp: Department of Anatomy, University of Otago.
This audio was recorded at the St David Lecture Theatre, Dunedin on 17 March 2016.