New study of the world's smallest elephant

12/08/05

The world's smallest elephant species, the newly described Bornean elephant, will be the focus of a Cardiff University study in Sabah, Malaysia for the next three years.

The Bornean elephant has recently been confirmed as a separate sub-species, dramatically increasing its importance for biodiversity. Bornean elephants are the world's most endangered member of the elephant family with an estimated 1,100 - 1,500 surviving in the wild.

The Cardiff School of Biosciences study led by Professor Michael Bruford and funded by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, will provide the Sabah Wildlife Department with a range of essential conservation and management information concerning the ecology, genetics, social structure, dispersal and conflicts with agriculture.

Dr Benoît Goossens who will carry out the research, said the need for the project was identified by wildlife authorities in Sabah during a previous Darwin Initiative grant to study orangutans. He said: "There is clearly an urgent need to undertake sound conservation action. Our work will provide information that is currently lacking, including identification of priority areas for the species that should be kept under forest cover.

"The project will also include training for Malaysian MSc student, Ms Nurzhafarina Othman in population biology and conservation genetics; and training for governmental and non-governmental organisations as well as representatives from the private sector on wildlife monitoring techniques."

Project partners are the Sabah Wildlife Department, Kinabatangan Orang Utan Conservation Project and the Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation at Universiti Malaysia Sabah.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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