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Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Charruau P.,University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna | Fernandes C.,University of Lisbon | Orozco-Terwengel P.,University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna | Peters J.,Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich | And 12 more authors.
Molecular Ecology

The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) has been described as a species with low levels of genetic variation. This has been suggested to be the consequence of a demographic bottleneck 10 000-12 000 years ago (ya) and also led to the assumption that only small genetic differences exist between the described subspecies. However, analysing mitochondrial DNA and microsatellites in cheetah samples from most of the historic range of the species we found relatively deep phylogeographic breaks between some of the investigated populations, and most of the methods assessed divergence time estimates predating the postulated bottleneck. Mitochondrial DNA monophyly and overall levels of genetic differentiation support the distinctiveness of Northern-East African cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii). Moreover, combining archaeozoological and contemporary samples, we show that Asiatic cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) are unambiguously separated from African subspecies. Divergence time estimates from mitochondrial and nuclear data place the split between Asiatic and Southern African cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus) at 32 000-67 000 ya using an average mammalian microsatellite mutation rate and at 4700-44 000 ya employing human microsatellite mutation rates. Cheetahs are vulnerable to extinction globally and critically endangered in their Asiatic range, where the last 70-110 individuals survive only in Iran. We demonstrate that these extant Iranian cheetahs are an autochthonous monophyletic population and the last representatives of the Asiatic subspecies A. j. venaticus. We advocate that conservation strategies should consider the uncovered independent evolutionary histories of Asiatic and African cheetahs, as well as among some African subspecies. This would facilitate the dual conservation priorities of maintaining locally adapted ecotypes and genetic diversity. © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Source

Whitehouse-Tedd K.M.,Outreach | Whitehouse-Tedd K.M.,Nottingham Trent University | Whitehouse-Tedd K.M.,Breeding Center for Endangered Arabian Wildlife | Lefebvre S.L.,Banfield Applied Research and Knowledge Team | Janssens G.P.J.,Ghent University

Gastrointestinal diseases pose significant risks to captive cheetah survival and welfare. Multiple factors are thought to be associated with these diseases, but to date a comprehensive epidemiological survey of disease risk factors has not been conducted. A survey of diet and health parameters was completed for 184 captive cheetahs in 86 international facilities. Comparisons were made among dietary factors with respect to disease status and observed faecal consistency, incidence of vomiting and diarrhoea in the past 4 weeks. Extremely dry faeces were most common in cheetahs fed carcasses, but was still of low incidence (15%). Contrastingly, cheetahs fed commercially prepared diets had the highest prevalence of liquid faeces "always" or "often" (9%). Cheetahs fed raw meat diets had the highest prevalence of soft faeces with no shape (22%), as well as of firm and dry faeces (40%). No broad category of diet exerted any influence on the health parameters investigated. However, feeding of ribs at least once per week reduced the odds of diarrhoea (P = 0.020) and feeding of long bones (limbs) at least once per week was associated with a lower odds of vomiting (P = 0.008). Cheetahs fed muscle meat at least once per week had reduced odds of suffering from chronic gastritis (P = 0.005) or non-specific gastrointestinal disease (P < 0.001). The only factor identified as increasing the odds of chronic gastritis was feeding of horse "often" or "always" (P = 0.023). The findings of the current study build on existing empirical research to support a recommendation towards a greater inclusion of skeletal components. Current husbandry guidelines advocating the use of supplemented raw meat diets are likewise supported, but the use of horse meat, as well as commercially prepared diets for captive cheetahs, warrants caution until further research is conducted. Copyright: © 2015 Whitehouse-Tedd et al. Source

Al Midfa A.,Environment and Protected Areas Authority | Mallon D.,IUCN SSC Antelone Special ist Group | Budd K.,Breeding Center for Endangered Arabian Wildlife
Zoology in the Middle East

A series of annual conservation workshops on the fauna of the Arabian Peninsula was initiated in 2000 under the patronage of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah. The 10 workshops held to date have brought together many experts from across the region and outside, fostering cooperation and assessing the regional status of several taxonomie groups. The Arabian Leopard has been a major topic and a region-wide conservation strategy has been produced. The workshops have alos produced the first assessment of Arabian freshwater habitats and since 2007 protected areas have formed an important topic. © Kasparek Verlag, Heidelberg. Source

Budd J.,Breeding Center for Endangered Arabian Wildlife | Leus K.,Conservation Breeding Specialist Group
Zoology in the Middle East

Captive breeding has the potential to play a pivotal role in conserving threatened species, among others by providing a healthy "safety net" population with which to buffer dwindling numbers in the wild. The Arabian Leopard Panthera pardus nimr is Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Captive breeding is an essential component of conservation for this species. Many experts are of the opinion that the chances for survival of the Arabian Leopard in the wild are much reduced without the potential for reintroduction of animals. The captive breeding programme has been operating on a regional level since 1999, although the first Arabian Leopards registered in the studbook were caught in 1985. The current living population consists of 42 males, 32 females, and three unsexed leopards; nineteen are wild caught (of which 3 are siblings) and a substantial number of these do not actively participate in the breeding programme. The program focuses on ensuring a genetically sound population that closely resembles the wild population. Current and predicted trends within the population arc compared with recommended trends and graphically illustrated using dedicated population management software, PM2000. © Kasparek Verlag, Heidelberg. Source

Vamberger M.,Museum of Zoology Museum fur Tierkunde | Stuckas H.,Museum of Zoology Museum fur Tierkunde | Ayaz D.,Ege University | Gracia E.,University Miguel Hernandez | And 5 more authors.
Organisms Diversity and Evolution

The West Asian stripe-necked terrapin Mauremys caspica is widespread throughout the Middle East - a region for which only few phylogeographic studies are available. Due to landscape alteration, pollution and intensification of water management, M. caspica is increasingly threatened. However, genetic diversity among and within populations is poorly known, impeding the identification of management units. Using a nearly rangewide sampling, we analyzed 14 microsatellite loci and mtDNA sequences in order to gain insight into the population structure and history of M. caspica. In agreement with a previous study, we found two clusters of mitochondrial haplotypes, with one cluster distributed in the east and the other in the west of the range. However, our microsatellite data suggested a more pronounced geographical structuring. When null alleles were coded as recessive with structure 2.3.2, three clusters were revealed, with one cluster matching roughly the range of the western mitochondrial cluster, and the composite ranges of the two other microsatellite clusters correspond to the distribution of the eastern mitochondrial cluster. Naïve structure analyses without correction for null alleles were congruent with respect to the two eastern microsatellite clusters, but subdivided the western cluster into two units, with an additional geographical divide corresponding to the 'Anatolian diagonal' - a well-known high mountain barrier impeding exchange between western and eastern taxa. In naïve analyses, the westernmost microsatellite cluster (from Central Anatolia) is quite isolated from the others, and its distinctness is also supported by fixation indices resembling the values among the other three clusters. One of the two eastern clusters is distributed in the Caucasus region plus Iran, and terrapins from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain constitute the second eastern cluster, supporting the view that these endangered populations are native. Coalescent-based analyses of our microsatellite data reveal for all four clusters bottlenecks 4,000-20,000 years ago, suggesting that climatic fluctuations of the Late Pleistocene and Holocene played an important role in shaping current genetic diversity. We propose that each of the four identified clusters, including the Central Anatolian one, should be treated as a distinct management unit. The presence of non-native terrapins in the animal trade of Bahrain highlights the danger of genetic pollution of the endangered Arabian populations. Further sampling is needed to elucidate the situation in southern and central Iran and Iraq. Our results confirm that genetic data do not support the validity of any of the three morphologically defined subspecies of M. caspica, and we propose that their usage be abandoned. © 2012 Gesellschaft für Biologische Systematik. Source

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