Thursday, November 29, 2012

Genetic markers key to saving Borneo jumbos

KOTA KINABALU: Experts are delving deep into Borneo elephant genes to identify populations of the pachyderm which are isolated and genetically impoverished.

A recent study conducted by a team of scientists concluded that Borneo elephant show low genetic diversity which could threaten their survival.

The study was published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE by experts from various institutes in Portugal, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Sabah Wildlife Department and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).

Experts believe that studying the genetic variability of endangered species' is necessary for conservation and monitoring purposes.

Using blood samples collected from captive Borneo elephants at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, a team of scientists used cutting edge DNA sequencing methodology to identify genetic markers for the species.

DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens said access to variable genetic markers was crucial to determine genetically impoverished and isolated elephants.

As Borneo elephants live in highly disturbed habitats due to oil palm plantation development, the populations risked isolation from one another.

"These new genetic markers may also allow us to reconstruct part of the demographic history of the elephants and possibly unravel the mystery of their origin.

"Their presence in Borneo still raises controversy and we have long wondered why the elephants' range is so restricted.

"The only previous genetic study done on these elephants recognised their presence in Borneo for more than 300,000 years, but there is a lack of elephant fossils on the island to support this," said Goossens.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Genetic markers key to saving Borneo jumbos