DNA Forensics in combating Eco-crime. The growing databases of veterinary that contains animal genes plus the falling costs of DNA testing have given wildlife researchers and environmentalists a new powerful tool to trace and identify poachers who dealing with protect animals, the endangered species. Scientists now know exactly genetic signatures of some species so well that they can pin point the regions or population it came from by examining the DNA of an individual animal. The black-market value of ivories and tusks has quadrupled since 2004, of which the demand is the reason that fueling these illegally activities in Africa. Poachers and smugglers are still doing good business and killing many elephants and rhinoceros. Over 68 tons of tusks valued at $8 million was seized at the port of Hong Kong the largest ivory catch ever since the International Agreement on banned ivory trade was declared in 1989. Thanks to the process made in forensics biology with the help of DNA technology that allows nowadays anti-poaching investigators to utilize it at their disposal in order to combat eco-crimes. It's not a cure for the problem, but it should help the authorities in deterring poaching activities more effectively. [ more ] Poaching in Sub-Sahara Africa: Rhino DNA Indexing System (RhODIS ) is a new state-of-art technology that use DNA profiling to catch poachers: Rhino poaching is on the rise in Southern Africa mainly South Africa,Botswana, Zambia and Namibia despite the consistently efforts asserted by these African states,through their nature conservancies, national police forces and army forces dare to stop or deterring illegal poaching activities of wild games especially the most endangered species like Rhinoceros and Elephants in this special case. Scientists at the University of Pretoria have find confidence in DNA technology to catch poachers. The main objective of developing RhODIS is to safeguarding all Rhinos which are the most vulnerable species. The genetic technology was first used against a rhino poaching case in 2010 that led a Vietnamese national being sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for having rhinoceros horns from poached rhinos in his baggage when he was apprehended at OR Thambo International Airport. The initiative of this project came after too many illegal poaching activities in South Africa’s National Parks. RhODIS is an electronic DNA system initiated by many partnership institutions in the regional,international and as well as scientific assistance of Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of Pretoria in helping with the plight of the rhinos. The Veterinary Genetic Lab (OPVGL) of RSA is busy collecting DNA samples of rhinos across the country to create an unique database. The main goal of RhODIS is to make sure that all rhinos are enrolled on the system to makes it more easier deterring poaching and assist in forensic tracing. [ more ] International Ivory Smuggling: There's a tendency of ship ivories out or via different countries than where it's originally poached It's a bit of a red herring," said Samuel Wasser, director of the University of Washington's Center for Conservation Biology and the leading author of the studies, that was published in a journal of Conservation Biology. Experts concluded that many poaching incidents are very rife in Southern Africa while Asian nations like Java,Indonesia, Vietnam, Malysia,Thailand plus India these species got already extinct. The shipping route of smuggled ivories is via Indian Ocean before finally arrived in Hong Kong, which is the main dockyards of smuggled ivories.  DNA technology has enable international law enforcers to verify several tusks that taken from endangered animals in places like Gabon,Republic of Congo and Sub-Sahara Africa. The extraction of DNA samples from confiscated ivories is an important method for wildlife investigations to take a step farther preventing poaching.  The sting operations discovered some black-markets and seized tons of ivory containers in Singapore,and some of them came from Zambia, that led its director of wildlife to be replaced and Zambian courts began to impose harsher sentences for ivory smugglers. “Despite the benefits of forensic testing for future investigations, funding for wildlife enforcement is still limited" says Wasser.  The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the main body that oversees eco-crimes, received $7.5 million in support, but it’s not enough to support DNA investigations in all developing nations. The international police organization Interpol has also developed an agency to facilitate global wildlife crime investigations that run by Dr. Peter Younger, the Interpol wildlife crime program manager, but it too lacks sufficient funding.  There are few laboratories across the world like for instance Wasser's lab that cost $300 per sample to analyze any African ivory that seized and construct its DNA map. The lack of funding for enforcement is dearly costing the lives of endangered species. Before the ivory trade ban, poachers were killing about 7.4 percent of the protected animal populations. Now the rate is 8 percent, and populations are only getting smaller. Wasser's team estimates the protected animals like elephants in sub-Saharan Africa could be "virtually extinct" by 2020. "
Illegal Poaching in Africa
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