Guinea-Bissau Endangered Chimpanzee Conservation Genetics
GUINEA-BISSAU ENDANGERED CHIMPANZEE CONSERVATION GENETICS: BIOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY CONTRIBUTION TO BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION
Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas (ISCSP/ULisboa)
Social Sciences - Anthropology
|Michael W. Bruford||--|
|Rui Miguel Moutinho Sá||--|
Fellows: 2 Masters (BI) - 6 months, renewable until 24 months
Conservation genetics aims to apply genetic methods to help biodiversity conservation, dealing with species and populations maintenance, loss, and restoration. Genetics methodologies are growing rapidly and hold promise for providing information important to the management of non-human primate (NHP) populations.
Genetic methodologies have been extensively applied to primate species living in top biodiversity hotspots [1-3]. Due to such advances, molecular techniques have become an essential tool for anthropologists to study a wide range of parameters, related not only with genetic structure and evolution, but also with behaviour and conservation. Now, researchers routinely incorporate a molecular component into their field research programs, something that so far, has not been applied to the Guinea-Bissau (GB) chimpanzees living in the only studied field site run by Portuguese researchers .These apes have been studied since 2003 but only from an ecological (indirect) perspective because they are difficult to follow and study [5,6]. An alternative strategy for collecting data that can be conveniently used while GB apes remain un-habituated is the use of genetic methods such as DNA profiling from non-invasively collected samples [6-10] which can provide information on kinship, migration and dispersal patterns, group size and composition, reproductive success of individuals, sex ratio and genetic diversity [6-25]. Molecular markers such as microsatellites have found broad application in population genetics as well as conservation assessments and are a powerful tool for paternity analysis . This kind of information is particularly important for conservation assessments or national action plans as it is the case of the GB Chimpanzee National Action Plan .
Processes such as deforestation have a strong impact in the structure of animal populations and their geographic distribution. As a consequence, formerly widely distributed populations become divided in subpopulations in the remaining forest fragments [22-24]. Habitat fragmentation inhibits gene flow often resulting in a loss of genetic diversity. Classically k-selected species such as the great apes are more prone to extinction [26,27], especially in closed or fragmented habitats . Many NHP populations are undergoing a strong decline, which is predicted to result in their extinction in the wild from entire regions in the near future. Deforestation (logging, agriculture and large scale plantations), hunting and bush-meat and disease (e.g. ebola virus and other hemorrhagic fevers) constitute major threats to many NHP species [19,22-29] such as the endangered Guinean chimpanzee which, among other NHP, is one of the most representative and visible members of the GB biodiversity. This ape acts as a flagship to the conservation of the diverse natural habitats of the country .
The Guinean coastal chimpanzee population (southwestern, Tombali and Quinara regions) is rated as one of the seven “very important priority areas” for conservation actions since it is facing extreme threats . The project has one main goal: to assess the genetic diversity of this endangered ape in a conservation priority area  in order to contribute to such conservation (and therefore to the conservation of biodiversity in this country). Such knowledge will allow for the development of effective conservation strategies with the proposal of ecological corridors that correspond to the chimpanzee real conservation needs via the population genetic management.
This project also represents the first step towards the application of the Guinea-Bissau Chimpanzee National Action Plan  avoiding genetic isolation and depletion of the population and several partners will co-operate: from governmental organizations (IBAP - Instituto da Biodiversidade e das Áreas Protegidas; DGFF - Direcção Geral das Florestas e da Fauna; DGA - Direcção Geral do Ambiente) to national and international NGO’s such as AD - Acção para o Desenvolvimento and IUCN - International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The ecological corridors based on the conservation genetic knowledge may be nationally and internationally regulated (via IBAP) and will represent the development of GB Chimpanzee National Action Plan .
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