In murder investigations, DNA evidence often helps to link a perpetrator to a crime scene and put him or her behind bars. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on January 8 show that DNA evidence is also successfully being used to link rhinoceros horns seized from poachers and traffickers in various countries directly to the specific crime scenes where rhinoceros carcasses were left behind.
Their Rhino DNA Index System (RhODIS®) includes a chain-of-custody-compliant biosampling kit and sampling methodology. It has already been used in more than 5,800 forensic cases with links made between recovered horns, blood-stained evidence items, and specific rhinoceros carcasses in more than 120 cases.
The report highlights nine cases in which DNA matches were made and that evidence was used for the prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of perpetrators of rhinoceros crimes. One case involving three horns and tissues from two carcasses led to a sentence of 29 years.
These cases now show that forensic data resources for wildlife species that are under severe threat from illegal hunting and trafficking can be applied successfully across borders to assist in the investigation and ultimate conviction of wildlife criminals. The hope is that the increasing risk of conviction and stiff sentencing will play an important role in decreasing incentives to deal in illegal wildlife products.
[Editor’s note: Read full study]
Read full, original post: DNA evidence is putting rhino poachers behind bars, study shows