THE USE OF MICROSATELLITES TO ADDRESS TAXONOMIC AND ILLEGAL TRADE IN CAPE PARROTS (POICEPHALUS ROBUSTUS)

 

Willem Coetzer, Mike Perrin, Colleen Downsand Sandi Willows-Munro

University of KwaZulu-Natal

 

Abstract: The Cape parrot (Poicephalus robustus) is the only endemic parrot species in South Africa. Recent population estimations suggest that there are less than 1600 Cape parrots in the wild, far less than expected from historical records. Various factors have been identified as possible causes for the population decline. One of these is the illegal trade of Cape parrots, with hatchlings being unsustainably harvested from the wild and traded as captive born. Poicephalus robustus is currently listed by IUCN as of “Least Concern” and is not considered by CITES as an endangered species, precluding the Cape parrot from protection by international trading laws. The main reason for this is that the Cape parrot is currently listed as a sub-species of P. robustus together with the Grey-headed parrot (P.r. suahelicus) in south-central Africa and the Brown-necked parrot (P.r. fuscicollis) from West Africa. Previous morphological, ecological and behavioural studies have recognized the Cape parrot as a distinct species separate from Grey-headed and Brown-necked parrots. The molecular confirmation of the taxonomic status of Cape parrots is thus required to better protect these parrots, and also to provide a DNA-based tool for the detection of illegally traded birds. Choosing molecular markers that provide sufficient power to resolve both above (taxonomic status of Cape parrots) and below (forensic tool to identify illegally traded parrots) the species level is an important consideration of this project. In this presentation, the merits of multilocus microsatellite markers will be discussed, in the context of some preliminary data from the current PhD genetic study.

 

Presentation Topic:

THE USE OF MICROSATELLITES TO ADDRESS TAXONOMIC AND ILLEGAL TRADE IN CAPE PARROTS (POICEPHALUS ROBUSTUS)

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