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Genetic analysis of Asian elephants in India reveals some surprises

future conservation planning."

The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) is recognized by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as an endangered species, with an estimated 22,700 to 32,400 individuals remaining, more than half of which are in India. Elephant numbers throughout Asia have declined drastically over the last several hundred years, mainly due to habitat loss and fragmentation, capture and domestication, and, more recently, poaching of males for ivory.

To combat these declines, India established 11 so-called "elephant ranges" that incorporate more than half of the known elephant habitat. Fewer than half of these ranges, however, offer the much stricter protections provided by wildlife sanctuaries or national parks. Moreover, India is projected to overtake China as the world's most populous country by 2030, a fact that almost certain to bring about increased competition for space between humans and elephants.

Still, Melnick and his colleagues are confident that their work represents a crucial step in efforts to protect an animal that is deeply rooted in Indian culture. "If we are going to find a way to protect elephants for future generations, we need to preserve the greatest genetic diversity possible." says Melnick. "We're just acting blind if we don't know where that diversity is. This study shows us where we need to focus our efforts."


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Source:The Earth Institute at Columbia University


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