Conservation genetics of Asian Elephant in Southern India

The Nilgiris-Eastern Ghats (NEG) region of Southern India supports the largest wild population of Asian elephants in the world and therefore has critical importance for the long-term viability of this species. Male elephants in these regions have been decimated by ivory poaching for three decades and population genetic studies have indicated low levels of genetic diversity. Researchers from Pondicherry University will develop a DNA database of individual elephants in the NEG using DNA extracted from elephant dung in order to assess the genetic diversity of the population, and to compare the landscape genetics of NEG elephant population to the Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) population further south. Landscape genetics can produce maps that clearly demonstrate to wildlife managers areas where wildlife populations are connected, sites where connectivity needs to be maintained through stringent protection, and sites where new corridors need to be developed. Better landscape management also encourages better land-use strategies as human-elephant conflict often happens when elephants attempt to traverse human dominated areas to reach another habitat.