Thursday, November 29, 2012

Studying Borneon jumbo's origin

Kota Kinabalu: Bornean elephants show low genetic diversity that can impact on their survival to a threatened habitat. 

This was one of the main conclusions in a recent paper published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE by a team of scientists from the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ci?ncia (IGC, Portugal), the Centre for Applied Genetics and Technology and Floragenex, Inc. (USA), the CNRS (France), Cardiff University (UK), Sabah Wildlife Department and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC, Sabah). 

"Studying the genetic variability of endangered species is becoming increasingly necessary for species conservation and monitoring," said Dr Lounes Chikhi from IGC and one of the lead authors of the paper. 

"Using blood samples collected from captive Bornean elephants of Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, we used cutting edge DNA (hereditary material of all living organisms) sequencing methodology to identify genetic markers for the species," he said. 

He said the Bornean elephants live in an environment where natural habitats disappear quickly due mainly to oil palm plantation development that causes populations to be isolated from each other. 
"(Thus) having access to variable genetic markers will be crucial to identify populations that are isolated and genetically impoverished, and monitor them in the future," he said. 

Co-author Dr Benoit Goossens, Director of DGFC, said these new genetic markers may also allow them to reconstruct part of the demographic history of the Bornean elephants and possibly unravel the mystery of their origin. 

"The origin of these elephants 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 lack of elephant fossils on the island to support this," he said. 

Another interesting theory, he said, is that in the late 12th century, the Sultan of Java sent Javan elephants as a gift to the Sultan of Sulu. 

These elephants became the founders of a feral population at the western end of the island of Sulu, he said. 

Subsequently, he said, the sultan of Sulu translocated some individuals to the northeast of Borneo and these individuals may have become the founder members of the current population in Sabah. 

Meanwhile, Director of Sabah Wildlife Department, Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, said the State Government launched the 2012-2016 Elephant Action Plan in January. 

He said the Bornean elephant is genetically unique and that Sabah is blessed with a population of about 2,000 individuals that need to be protected. 

"Large areas of lowland forest are paramount for the survival of this pachyderm. 

"Land conversion to oil palm plantations in key areas such as the Kinabatangan floodplain and central Sabah should stop if we want to avoid isolation of herds and maintain a healthy population," he said. 

Source: Daily Express


Borneo Native said...

Those who kill Borneo elephants will now face a mandatory jail term as part of Sabah’s efforts to upgrade its conservation of the animal.

State Tourism, Culture and En­­vironment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the elephant was classified as a totally protected species under its wildlife laws.

Borneo Native said...

Under the totally protected classification, those convicted of killing the animals will be liable for a mandatory jail term of up to five years.

Previously, those convicted of killing these animals, which were listed only as protected, were liable to a fine of up to RM30,000 or three years in default or both.

Post a Comment