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Chakraborty S.,Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research | Chakraborty S.,Indian Institute of Science | Boominathan D.,WWF India | Desai A.A.,WWF India and WWF International | Vidya T.N.C.,Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research
Conservation Genetics | Year: 2014

With growing human and, possibly, elephant populations and a drastic increase in anthropogenic activities, human-elephant conflict in Asia has been on the rise. The Alur area in Karnataka state, southern India, is one such case in point, which has witnessed increasing levels of human-elephant conflict over the last two decades. The tiny, moderately protected habitat available for elephants in this human-dominated landscape does not appear to be able to support elephants over the long term. Options to deal with the escalating conflict include translocation of elephants, bringing elephants into captivity, and culling. We carried out a molecular genetic study of elephants in the Alur area to estimate the minimum number of elephants using the area, the sex ratio, genetic relatedness between individuals, and genetic structure with regard to the larger population in the landscape, so that informed management decisions could be made. Fresh dung samples were collected from the field and genotyped using 12 microsatellite loci. We found 29 unique individuals in the population, comprising 17 females and 12 males of different age classes. Relatedness between females suggested independent colonisations by discrete, small groups rather than by one cohesive clan of related females. This obviates the need for a single solution for dealing with all the females in the area in order to maintain social integrity, and has implications in terms how these elephants can be dealt with. We demonstrate how social organization inferred through molecular data from non-invasive sampling can inform management decisions. © 2014 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.

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