Conservation genetics and management of the proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) in Sabah

Project Description

PhD Candidate: Senthilvel KSS Nathan
Institution: Cardiff University

Supervisors: Benoît Goossens, Michael W Bruford, , Pablo Orozco-terWengel

Advisor: Milena Salgado Lynn

Molecular biologist: Cyrlen Jalius

Duration: October 2011- October 2019

The rapid area decrease and fragmentation of N. larvatus habitat is likely to have led to a significant decrease in population sizes, and hence to a significant genetic impoverishment. It is therefore crucial to rapidly sample as many populations as possible to determine the extent of genetic diversity present in remnant populations (continuous and isolated) and to characterise their genetic health in order to propose management measures to restore and re-establish healthy populations of proboscis monkeys. Habitat loss and fragmentation have also increased isolation of proboscis monkey groups, therefore rescue and translocation operations in all areas where the monkeys are at high risk of being killed are also needed.

The aim of this study will be to examine the phylogeographic patterns, genetic diversity and differentiation within and between the five major centres of continuous population distribution and the small isolated populations of proboscis monkeys. This data will provide the Sabah Wildlife Department with accurate information about genetic diversity and genetic health of the proboscis monkey in Sabah to include in the conservation management program of the species in the state.

The specific objectives of this study are the following:

  • Determine the population structure and demographic history of the proboscis monkey in Sabah.
  • Identify the level of genetic differentiation between sub-populations and the threats to genetic diversity.
  • Determine if and how are landscape (riverine and mountain barriers) and environmental factors are influencing gene flow and population structure in the proboscis monkey populations in Sabah
  • Simulate changes in genetic diversity and differentiation within and among fragmented populations of proboscis monkeys in Sabah using different management scenarios and examine the genetic implications of management options for fragmented populations of proboscis monkeys (following Bruford et al. 2010).
  • Subsequently, identify appropriate intervention measures to maintain gene flow and diversity between the proboscis monkey sub-populations in Sabah.