Combining molecular and incomplete observational data to inform management of southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum)

Purisotayo, T., Jonsson, N. N. , Mable, B. K. and Verreyenne, F. J. (2019) Combining molecular and incomplete observational data to inform management of southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum). Conservation Genetics, 20(3), pp. 639-652. (doi: 10.1007/s10592-019-01166-4)

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Conservation efforts have preserved the southern white rhinoceros (SWR) in protected areas and have resulted in substantial overall growth in population size, but in small, fragmented populations in which inbreeding is an important risk. However, field observation of breeding often lacks sufficient accuracy to inform translocation strategies that are intended to increase genetic variation. The purpose of this study was to integrate microsatellite genotypes with an incomplete, field-observed pedigree to make inferences about mean kinship and basic demographic data that could be used to inform translocation programmes for SWR in a confined population in Botswana. Using this approach, we identified parents for 29 out of 45 offspring born in the reserve between 1993 and 2013 and detected eight non-breeding bulls with high mean kinship as candidates for translocation. The method also allowed inferences about demographic parameters that could influence the effectiveness of intervention strategies, such as age and timing of reproduction, and natal sex ratios. Importantly, the reproductive dominance of the bulls was not as skewed as expected after the original dominant bull was removed from the population, suggesting that closed populations can maintain multiple, simultaneously breeding males. The genetic data also confirmed that the accuracy of field-based parentage assignment was increased after implementation of an ear-notching programme. This study demonstrates the value of combining genetic information with ongoing surveillance to inform management of threatened populations, and of using mean kinship to inform metapopulation management by identifying candidates for translocation.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Jonsson, Professor Nicholas and Purisotayo, Tarid and Mable, Professor Barbara
Authors: Purisotayo, T., Jonsson, N. N., Mable, B. K., and Verreyenne, F. J.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Conservation Genetics
ISSN (Online):1572-9737
Published Online:15 March 2019
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 The Authors
First Published:First published in Conservation Genetics 20(3):639-652
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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