The genetics of reintroduced addax populations in Tunisia: the first year of the project

February 22, 2018

In 2017 Marwell Wildlife began a 3-year project with Al Ain Zoo, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, San Diego Zoo Global and the Tunisian Direction Générale des Forêts to evaluate the genetic diversity of addax Addax nasomaculatus across global ex-situ populations and those reintroduced to Tunisia. The results of this project will allow us and the Direction Générale des Forêts to develop plans for the long-term survival of these reintroduced populations, and move towards a global management plan for the species.

The project began in August 2017 with the collection of 104 tissue samples using biopsy darts from the 110 addax that live in three Tunisian national parks. This method of sample collection allowed us to obtain high-quality samples without the need to catch or sedate individuals. At the same time, blood samples were collected from addax in European zoos and from Al Ain Zoo in the United Arab Emirates as part of veterinary health screening. Sample collection had previously been completed for the North American population of addax.

The samples from Europe, the United Arab Emirates and Tunisia have now been shipped to the WildGenes Laboratory at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland in preparation for genetic analysis.

Addax were once widespread and abundant across the dunes and gravel plains of the Sahara, but are now on the brink of extinction in the wild. The species has been conserved and bred in zoological institutions in Europe, North America, the Arabian Peninsula and Asia, and was released into fenced protected areas in Morocco and Tunisia between 1985 and 2007. The Tunisian metapopulation is split between three National Parks and the results from this project will guide efforts to ensure these animals are managed effectively for their long-term conservation.

If you would like to find out more information on the progress of this project, please visit our publications page where a year 1 progress report is available.