Asian elephant 

IMAGE: Wildlife Mynamar

It can be really challenging to monitor populations of elusive forest dwelling species, especially when population sizes are small because the species is under threat. Researchers can spend their careers working on Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus), only encountering them rarely, perhaps seeing them on camera traps or hearing them crashing through the under growth of their tropical forest environment. 

Fortunately, genetic analysis using samples collected from elephant’s dung can help to estimate the number of animals living in a forest, to keep track of populations over time, determine the sex and family relatedness of animals, and to understand how connected populations are.  

There are currently estimated to be just 400 to 600 wild Asian Elephants in Cambodia. The species is classed as Endangered at a global level because it is threatened by both habitat loss and the illegal trade in ivory.

The RZSS WildGenes lab is working with the Royal University of Phnom Penh’s Conservation Genetics laboratory alongside other partners in Cambodia to use genetic analysis to monitor wild elephant populations so they can be best protected and to combat the illegal trade in ivory. 

Our Partners

Project type

Conservation genetics icon

Conservation genetics

The team

Dr Alex Ball

Dr Alex Ball

Conservation programme manager (RZSS WildGenes)

Liz Heap

Liz Heap

Senior lab technician (RZSS WildGenes)

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Chimpanzee in Budongo forest Uganda

IMAGE: JP 2017

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IMAGE: JP 2017

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