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Title:Conservation genetics of African elephants
Author(s):de Flamingh, Alida
Director of Research:Roca, Alfred L
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Roca, Alfred L
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Malhi, Ripan S; Schooley, Robert L; van Aarde, Rudi J
Department / Program:School of Integrative Biology
Discipline:Ecol, Evol, Conservation Biol
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):conservation genetics
molecular ecology
conservation genomics
Abstract:Elephant population numbers are plummeting across the African continent. Habitat loss as a consequence of anthropogenic landscape transformation, and the poaching of elephants for the illegal ivory trade, has reduced and fragmented elephant populations to a fraction of their former population size and range. It has therefore become necessary to develop and implement proactive and targeted conservation initiatives that aim at maintaining or restoring spatial and genetic connectivity between populations. In this thesis, I use a conservation genetic approach to study African elephant populations with the aim of developing methodologies and providing applications that could inform conservation planning for African elephants. In Chapter 1, I introduce and discuss the need for proactive African elephant conservation initiatives. In Chapter 2, I develop and evaluate an approach to delineate functional landscape linkages (FLL) for African elephant conservation planning, and I use this approach to create a fine-scale map that demarcates FLL for elephant populations in southern Africa. The results of Chapter 3 provide support for conservation initiatives that aim at increasing connectivity through FLL. In Chapter 3, I show that Kruger National Park’s elephant population forms part of a functional entity in which migration helped to maintain a relatively diverse gene pool. Chapter 4 benefits elephant conservation by increasing our understanding of historical elephant population ecology and genetics. Here I show that contemporary West African forest elephant populations have limited genetic diversity compared to the genetic diversity found in historical populations. Chapter 4 highlights the need for proactive and preventative conservation strategies that aim to conserve the genetic diversity within remaining forest elephant populations. In Chapter 5 I adapt a method previously developed for sex identification of human remains for use with non-human taxa, and I successfully identify the sex of modern and ancient elephants from low coverage genome data. Sex identification of ancient animal biological remains can benefit conservation by increasing our understanding of historical population structure, demography and social behavior. In this thesis I develop and apply genetic and spatial analyses to extinct and extant elephant populations to inform local and regional African elephant conservation strategies. This thesis provides an interdisciplinary toolset and framework for future conservation genetic studies that focus on African elephant conservation planning.
Issue Date:2020-04-24
Rights Information:Copyright 2020 Alida de Flamingh
Date Available in IDEALS:2020-08-26
Date Deposited:2020-05

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