The illegal exploitation of hog badgers (Arctonyx collaris) in China: genetic evidence exposes regional population impacts
Chen W., Newman C., Liu Z., Kaneko Y., Omote K., Masuda R., Buesching CD., Macdonald DW., Xie Z., Zhou Y.
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. Although the impacts of the legal and illegal wildlife trade are broadly recognised for flagship species (e.g., elephant, rhino and tiger), less is known about how exploitation affects more common, and less charismatic species. This is of especial concern in Asia in general, and particularly in China, where demands for wild game species, and derived products are increasing, but a lack of data on illegal bushmeat hunting limits the development of effective species and ecosystem conservation measures. Genetic monitoring provides an informative tool to assess the pressures on regional populations, particularly for species that are difficult to monitor, for example, using arboreal or subterranean refugia. Here, using microsatellite markers, we investigated the effect of hunting on the genetic diversity of a regional population of the hog badger. Samples were collected from hog badgers confiscated from illegal traffickers and local hunters by forest authorities in the market towns of Wufeng and Yuguan, which lie 40 km apart in Hubei Province, China. To isolate novel hog badger microsatellite loci, we constructed a biotin-enriched microsatellite DNA library. Furthermore, we also tested the suitability of microsatellite loci designed for the European badger in the hog badger. Using these microsatellite markers, we found that these seized hog badgers exhibited a high level of genetic diversity—mean alleles per locus (A) were 8.33 and mean expected heterozygosities (H<inf>E</inf>) were 0.77. Despite 40 km separation between sample sites, spatial segregation was not apparent from genetics. This suggests that our confiscated hog badgers belong to the same meta-population. Although limited by a lack of geographical data on the source of these hog badgers, preventing the analysis of isolation by distance effects, hunting likely eroded hog badger population social structure, promoting gene flow among demes. We conclude that the exploitation of this wild source population seems unsustainable.