|DNA-based tool to probe poaching
GUWAHATI, May 28, 2014
Assam studies Rhino Indexing System developed in S. Africa
South African wildlife experts on Tuesday gave forest officials at the
Assam State Zoo a demonstration of the Rhino DNA Indexing System, a
DNA-based forensic tool. The RhODIS, used to investigate and prosecute
suspects in cases of rhino poaching, has been on the Assam government’s
wish-list. The tool involves the collection of each individual rhino’s
unique DNA profile into a database which can be referenced when
presenting legal evidence in cases of rhino poaching.
experts — Cindy Harper, Director, Veterinary Genetic Laboratory of
University of Pretoria, and Rod Potter, a professional wildlife
investigator associated with South Africa’s National Wildlife Crime
Intervention unit — will also visit the Kaziranga National Park to
educate its forest officials on the RhODIS’ utility in crime-scene
Assam’s Environment and Forest Minister Rockybul
Hussain said the government had plans to introduce RhODIS in the State,
where poachers often went unpunished for want of irrefutable evidence.
Hussain said poachers killed and dehorned 41 rhinos in Assam and about
1,000 rhinos in South Africa in 2013. However, he observed, South
Africa had successfully cracked down on rhino poaching by international
gangs and carried out effective prosecution. As many as 16 rhinos have
been killed in Kaziranga so far this year.
Mr. Hussain said the
Assam government has been exploring the option of setting up fast-track
courts to carry out speedy trials against poachers. The RhODIS would
help provide concrete evidence before the trial court, as required for
conviction in poaching cases, he said. The State has now planned to
introduce RhoDIS in collaboration with World Wide Fund for Nature —
India to build a database of the DNA profiles of translocated, poached
or naturally-dead rhinos.