Conservation Genetics

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 897–907 | Cite as

Using genetic analysis to estimate population size, sex ratio, and social organization in an Asian elephant population in conflict with humans in Alur, southern India

  • Subhankar Chakraborty
  • D. Boominathan
  • Ajay A. Desai
  • T. N. C. VidyaEmail author
Research Article


With growing human and, possibly, elephant populations and a drastic increase in anthropogenic activities, human–elephant conflict in Asia has been on the rise. The Alur area in Karnataka state, southern India, is one such case in point, which has witnessed increasing levels of human–elephant conflict over the last two decades. The tiny, moderately protected habitat available for elephants in this human-dominated landscape does not appear to be able to support elephants over the long term. Options to deal with the escalating conflict include translocation of elephants, bringing elephants into captivity, and culling. We carried out a molecular genetic study of elephants in the Alur area to estimate the minimum number of elephants using the area, the sex ratio, genetic relatedness between individuals, and genetic structure with regard to the larger population in the landscape, so that informed management decisions could be made. Fresh dung samples were collected from the field and genotyped using 12 microsatellite loci. We found 29 unique individuals in the population, comprising 17 females and 12 males of different age classes. Relatedness between females suggested independent colonisations by discrete, small groups rather than by one cohesive clan of related females. This obviates the need for a single solution for dealing with all the females in the area in order to maintain social integrity, and has implications in terms how these elephants can be dealt with. We demonstrate how social organization inferred through molecular data from non-invasive sampling can inform management decisions.


Asian elephant Genetic relatedness Hassan district Human–elephant conflict Non-invasive sampling Social organization 



The fieldwork for this study was funded by WWF India, and the labwork by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, through the Ramanujan Fellowship to T. N. C. Vidya. Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research provided infrastructural facilities. We thank the Karnataka Forest Department for permits and field support, especially Mr. Vinaya Chandra, Range Forest Officer, Yesalur, who provided logistic support in the field. Mr. V. Ganesha and forest watchers, Mr. M. S. Guruvappa and Mr. Venkatesh, provided field assistance. We also thank the network of informants, especially Mr. I. D. Channamallikarjuna (of Igoor), who provided useful information of elephant presence at various sites. CA Anitha of the Sequencing Facility at JNCASR helped with genotyping samples. Hansraj Gautam helped with GIS tools. We thank an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10592_2014_587_MOESM1_ESM.docx (73 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 71 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Subhankar Chakraborty
    • 1
    • 2
  • D. Boominathan
    • 3
  • Ajay A. Desai
    • 4
  • T. N. C. Vidya
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Evolutionary and Organismal Biology UnitJawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific ResearchBangaloreIndia
  2. 2.Theoretical Ecology and Evolution LaboratoryCentre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of ScienceBangaloreIndia
  3. 3.WWF–India, Western Ghats Nilgiris LandscapeGudalurIndia
  4. 4.WWF–India and WWF–InternationalBelgaumIndia

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