"We discovered that elephants tend to use the unprotected area as much as they do the protected parks," said Eggert. "A resident population exists in the unprotected area, even though drilling occurs there and humans are present. Some of the elephants seem to consider this their home range and, instead of moving back and forth between the national parks, they inhabit the unprotected area during the rainy and dry seasons. What perhaps is most important is that a relatively large number of females inhabit this area, making this region much more important than we first realized."
Eggert's fellow researchers collected samples from elephant droppings in the unprotected area and in the national parks, and sent more than 1,000 samples back to Eggert and her lab team who extracted DNA and genotyped them at the SCBI and at MU. She and her colleagues detected more than 500 elephants in the unprotected area during both the wet and dry seasons suggesting that region supported a resident population.
"Elephants are considered to be a 'keystone' species, or a species that is especially important to the health of ecosystems in Africa," Eggert said. "We're all affected by the health of the forests in Africa, Central America and here in the U.S. The fact that elephants are surviving in a place where drilling for oil is happening is exciting and gives us a glimpse at how to study species in our own country."
Eggert said the work she and her team conducted with elephants in Africa involves methods used to study species worldwide. Her lab recently worked with the Missouri Departmen
|Contact: Jeff Sossamon|
University of Missouri-Columbia