#ShockWildlifeTruths: Study shows the power of DNA database in rhino poaching cases

2018-01-11 09:17 - Gabi Zietsman
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Cape Town - Research shows that the rhino DNA database is being used to its full extent in persecuting poachers.

The Rhinoceros DNA index system (RhODIS) has proven very useful since it was established in 2010 and uses composite short tandem repeat genotyping to identify the DNA of rhinos who have been poached.

Since its inception 5800 crime cases have been submitted to RhODIS, with more than 120 cases linking evidence in court cases to rhino poaching crime scenes. The evidence items consisted of horn, tissue, blood stains and other materials made from rhino.

SEE: Surprise birth of white baby rhino brings hope to Karoo private game reserve

The study, published in Current Biology Magazine and included researchers from University of Pretoria, looked at various court cases where RhODIS was used successfully to persecute poachers, mostly in South Africa though a court case in Kenya and Namibia was also included.

The researchers also checked the validity of RhODIS by comparing rhino samples to see if any 'false matches' occur between different rhinos with similar DNA.

According to The Guardian, the team concluded there's about a one in several million chance that different samples will match, proving the species' genetic variability and making it harder for the defense lawyers of persecutors to bring RhODIS into question in court.

One interesting genetic discovery was that black rhinos in Kruger National Park are a mix of KwaZulu-Natal and Zimbabwean populations, showing how far they've travelled either naturally or through relocation.

The stakes for RhODIS has also risen since certain rhino horn auctions were legalised in South Africa last year, as it will become even more important in preventing poached rhino horns from entering the legal market.

ALSO SEE: Confiscated rhino horn at OR Tambo 'not linked to online auction'

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