ENP Newswire -
Release date- 11072014 - A pioneering genetic study of the endangered Congolese Okapi has for the first time unravelled the mystery behind its evolutionary origins and genetic structure.
The new information will prove indispensable for future conservation management of the species and, ultimately, its survival.
In the past 20 years the wild okapi's numbers have halved. Prior to the study, little was known about the enigmatic animal, endemic to the forests of
Now, using genetic techniques similar to those employed by crime scene forensics, scientists from
'Our research showed that Okapi are both genetically distinct and diverse - not what you might expect from an endangered animal at low numbers,' said chief investigator of the study, Dr
He added: 'Higher genetic diversity means that the Okapi are equipped with the necessary genes capable of withstanding changes to their environment. Beyond that they are also more likely to survive to produce offspring bearing their own resilient genetic traits. Consequently, the population will continue for more generations because of the success of these individuals.
'This rich and distinct genetic variation is likely to be a result of periods of forest fragmentation and expansion in the
'There is a concern however, that much of this genetic diversity will be lost in the near future, due to rapidly declining populations in the wild making efforts to conserve the species, facilitated by the
Only known to the Western world since 1901, the elusive Okapi is nearly impossible to observe in the wild because of its shy nature and the remoteness of the rainforests it inhabits; a trait that has helped it avoid getting caught in the cross-fire of Congo's long-running civil conflict.
The latest research into the Okapi provides an important contribution to a range-wide Okapi conservation project run in conjunction with ICCN, the Congolese conservation agency, and provides a unique perspective to better understand the diversity of wildlife in the forests of
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