Managers of threatened species often face the dilemma of whether to keep populations separate to conserve local adaptations and minimize the risk of outbreeding, or whether to manage populations jointly to reduce loss of genetic diversity and minimise inbreeding. In this study we examine genetic relatedness and diversity in three of the five last remaining wild populations of dama gazelle and a number of captive populations, using mtDNA control region and cytochrome b data. Despite the sampled populations belonging to the three putative subspecies, which are delineated according to phenotypes and geographical location, we find limited evidence for phylogeographical structure within the data and no genetic support for the putative subspecies. In the light of these data we discuss the relevance of inbreeding depression, outbreeding depression, adaptive variation, genetic drift, and phenotypic variation to the conservation of the dama gazelle and make some recommendations for its future conservation management. The genetic data suggest that the best conservation approach is to view the dama gazelle as a single species without subspecific divisions.
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