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MU researcher's study of African forest elephants helps guide research efforts in the US
Date:1/7/2014

COLUMBIA, Mo. Conservation of a protected or endangered species requires frequent monitoring and the dynamic techniques biologists utilize to ensure the survival of threatened animals. Often, scientists study biodiversity at all levelsfrom genes to entire ecosystems. Currently, researchers at the University of Missouri are employing genotyping to study movement patterns of African forest elephants in protected and unprotected regions of Gabon to better understand how human occupation of these areas might affect elephants on the African continent. Genotyping is helping conservation biologists determine the best course of action to ensure biodiversity and the preservation of various species in the U.S. and abroad.

"Many times, analyzing dangerous animals with a hands-on approach is risky, so genetic samples and traces collected through hair samples, fecal samples, and other noninvasive means offer a safer technique to examine species," said Lori Eggert, associate professor of biological sciences in the College of Arts & Science at MU. "In Africa, protected areas are often designed around sites that support endangered species such as large mammals. We were tasked with studying elephants outside a protected region in an area that includes humans, oil-drilling platforms and disturbances by machinery. We examined population structure, movement patterns, and habitat use by sex and age group. We also studied how the elephants moved between the protected regions and the unprotected regions during wet and dry seasons."

Between 2002 and 2011, the population of Central African forest elephants declined by 62 percent and their geographic range decreased by 30 percent. The largest remaining concentration of this species, approximately 53,000 individuals, is in Gabon where officials have established 13 national parks designated as habitats for elephants. Eggert and fellow researchers from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI), as well
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Contact: Jeff Sossamon
sossamonj@missouri.edu
573-882-3346
University of Missouri-Columbia
Source:Eurekalert  

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