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Population and landscape genetic analysis of the Malayan sun bear Helarctos malayanus

Cite this dataset

Kunde, Miriam et al. (2020). Population and landscape genetic analysis of the Malayan sun bear Helarctos malayanus [Dataset]. Dryad.


Conservation genetics can provide data needed by conservation practitioners for their decisions regarding the management of vulnerable or endangered species, such as the sun bear Helarctos malayanus. Throughout its range, the sun bear is threatened by loss and fragmentation of its habitat and the illegal trade of both live bears and bear parts. Sharply declining population numbers and population sizes, and a lack of natural dispersal between populations all threaten the genetic diversity of the remaining populations of this species. In this first population genetics study of sun bears using microsatellite markers, we analyzed 68 sun bear samples from Cambodia to investigate population structure and genetic diversity. We found evidence for two genetically distinct populations in the West and East of Cambodia. Ongoing or recent gene flow between these populations does not appear sufficient to alleviate loss of diversity in these populations, one of which (West Cambodia) is characterized by significant inbreeding. We were able to assign 85% of sun bears of unknown origin to one of the two populations with high confidence (assignment probability ≥ 85%), providing valuable information for the release of bears. Further, our results suggest that developed land (mostly agricultural mosaics) acts as a barrier to gene flow for sun bears in Cambodia. We highlight that regional sun bear conservation action plans should consider promoting population connectivity and enforcing wildlife protection of this threatened species.


Leibniz Association Grant, Award: SAW-2013-IZW-2