DNA analysis will bring together elephants from the same family

It is a beautiful story reported on May 25, 2021 by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). The original herd of elephants rescued by the NGO and now cared for was found thanks to DNA analysis. Nania may one day be able to join her family.

An elephant named “Will”

The elephant was only three months old in 2017 when it was discovered near a village in Burkina Faso, visibly lost. The locals rescued him and bought him milk after collecting money. Her children baptized Nani, a “will” in Dioula. “We don’t know what happened. We have put forward three possible hypotheses, he explains Science and the future Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, IFAW Director for France and Francophone Africa.

A poaching incident on his herd, a man / elephant conflict that occurred one night before Nania’s discovery (elephants fled in a certain panic and the elephant got lost) or a difficulty Nania encountered to cross one of the two rivers in the park and follow her group . In the rainy season the flow is strongBut no elephant remains have been found in the area and villagers have not reported a visit to these animals in their fields. Therefore, the latter hypothesis is favored.

Villagers responded, the NGO IFAW bet to come back to life. Given that there were few elephants living nearby, the idea that his original herd passed through their migration to Deux Balés Park, near where Ninia was rescued, was almost certain. Therefore, 17 DNA samples (taken from feces), infant elephants, and elephants that visited the area were taken. They were then sent to the University of Washington (United States) for analysis. “A parent must share 50% of their alleles with their daughter. So what we are trying to do is see if in each of these family groups we have one parent and one offspring, one brother or one sister or one half-brother or half-sister from Nania., ”Sam Wasser, director of the Center for Conservation Biology at American University, said in a statement from IFAW.

“Nani’s mother is alive!”

Analyzes revealed that the female, undoubtedly the mother (less likely, half-sister) of the collected elephant, walked 200 meters from the fenced elephant! “I was overwhelmed by strong emotions. Everything indicates that Nani’s mother is alive! The fact that we have potentially found not only his mother but, presumably, his grandmother and aunt is amazing and truly fascinating. “She told Sissler-Bienven in a statement. Nania is now learning the survival skills she will need to fully return to the wild with the help of several well-meaning healers who take turns: Idrissa, Souleymane, Salif and Abdoulaye. They even follow him in the Deux Balés park. “Nania is already developing in her habitat, because we wanted to provide a rehabilitation process in her protected birth area, as soon as his rehabilitation fence was built, explains Ms. Sissler-Bienvenu. The step that was necessary for her to join the wild elephants and for them to accept them was weaning. It took place in June / July 2020. From now on, her family return depends only on her. This can be done in a few months as well as in ten years. It is a long process based on the trust that Nania must develop in her peers.The young elephant remains scared for now, but if her herd were to be reunited thanks to DNA analysis, that would be the first.

The samples taken also revealed that the elephant calf belonged to forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis), a critically endangered species according to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Returning one of these specimens to the wild would therefore be a particularly tasty victory when only 6,800 wild elephants, decimated by poaching, remain in Burkina Faso.

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