Image: © Marie Petretto/ Marwell Wildlife
The Animal Facts Editorial Team
April 13, 2023 8:54 pm
Scientists at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland have completed the first global assessment of genetic diversity for a critically endangered antelope, the addax. Findings from their research will help to guide ongoing conservation efforts for this species. Addax once roamed widely across the Sahara desert but now have a tiny population in their native Africa.
Scientists from the wildlife conservation charities Wildgenes teams are working on the conservation of the species with support provided by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
The findings gathered in this report will help to support a global management plan for the species which has fewer than 100 individuals left in the wild due to threats including climate change, hunting and habitat loss.
Dr Kara Dicks, RZSS WildGenes research scientist and lead author, said “Our findings provide unique insight into the last remaining wild population, as well as captive populations and those already reintroduced to Tunisia. We found that the genetic diversity in the last wild population was greater and different to that in captivity, highlighting the importance of both these populations for conserving addax. This will inform critical decision-making in addax conservation and reintroduction programmes, ensuring this rare species is given the best chance of long-term success.”
The United Nation’s Global Biodiversity framework recognizes genetic diversity as one of its three fundamental components.
Dr Dicks continued, “Our planet is facing a biodiversity crisis and understanding genetic diversity is a crucial tool for saving wildlife, alongside restoring the diversity of species and ecosystems.
“Greater genetic diversity strengthens the capacity for populations to adapt to changing environmental pressures such as climate change and disease, and we are thrilled to use our expertise to inform conservation action for species like the addax.”
Dr Tania Gilbert, Head of Conservation Science at Marwell Wildlife and senior author said “The Addax is teetering on the brink of extinction in the wild and in urgent need of concerted conservation action. This collaborative project provides critical information to guide effective conservation initiatives that can make a real difference to the species, in particular to addax conservation projects in Tunisia.”
A number of partners made this initiative possible including Marwell Wildlife, Al Ain Zoo, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and Direction Générale des Forêts Tunisie, and the many sample contributors, particularly Sahara Conservation, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
During the day an addax can raise its body temperature to better match that of the surrounding environment helping to limit water loss. Despite this adaptation they still conduct most of their activity at night when temperatures are naturally lower.
Image: © Jbil T Woodfine/ Marwell Wildlife
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