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Enhancing knowledge of an endangered and elusive species, the okapi, using non-invasive genetic techniques

Stanton, David W. G., Hart, J., Kümpel, N. F., Vosper, A., Nixon, S., Bruford, Michael William ORCID:, Ewen, J. G. and Wang, J. 2015. Enhancing knowledge of an endangered and elusive species, the okapi, using non-invasive genetic techniques. Journal of Zoology 295 (4) , pp. 233-242. 10.1111/jzo.12205

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The okapi Okapia johnstoni is an endangered, even-toed ungulate in the family Giraffidae, and is endemic to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Okapi are highly elusive and very little is known about their behaviour and ecology in the wild. We used non-invasive genetic methods to examine the social structure, mating system and dispersal for a population of okapi in the Réserve de Faune à Okapis, DRC. Okapi individuals were found to be solitary, but genetically polygamous or promiscuous. There was no evidence for any close spatial association between large groups of related or unrelated okapi for either sex, but we did find evidence for male-biased dispersal. An isolation by distance pattern of genetic similarity was present, but appears to be operating just below the spatial scale of the area investigated in the present study. We describe how the analyses used here can infer aspects of behavioural ecology and discuss the strengths and limitations of these analyses. We therefore provide a guide for future studies using non-invasive genetics to investigate behavioural ecology of rare, elusive animals. This study furthers scientific knowledge about a species that has recently been recognized by the IUCN as endangered, and is a potentially important flagship species for Central Africa.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACES)
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN: 0952-8369
Date of Acceptance: 19 November 2014
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2024 03:00

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