DNA tracing for rhinos could help check poaching, can be a template for conservation efforts for other animals

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December 30, 2020 5:15 AM

While instances of rhino-poaching in India have reduced over the years, there is still significant poaching activity in the country.

The researchers could use this data to compare with rhino horn samples to trace the rhino back to its breeding population.The researchers could use this data to compare with rhino horn samples to trace the rhino back to its breeding population.

Cases of poaching of rhinoceroses have come down drastically in South Africa ever since it implemented its Rhino Database as part of its conservation efforts. DNA tracing has allowed for conviction rates to rise sharply, while courts have handed harsher sentences that had been the norm so far. Against such a backdrop, Indian researchers planning a similar system for the animal in the country’s jungles is welcome.

Earlier this month, Indian researcher Tista Ghosh, along with Samrat Mondol from Wildlife Institute of India and Amit Sharma from WWF India, said that they have been able to identify 406 unique rhinos. The researchers could use this data to compare with rhino horn samples to trace the rhino back to its breeding population.

This technique also helps identify trade routes and point to poaching hotspots. The project is part of the Rhino DNA Indexing System (RhODIS- India) conservation programme started a couple of years ago.

While instances of rhino-poaching in India have reduced over the years, there is still significant poaching activity in the country. Besides, if the technique is successful, India could also work towards implementing this approach for other animal and plant species. In South Africa, NTT and Cisco have combined efforts to install sensors to track the movement of people.

Wildlife agencies elsewhere have been using modelling techniques to determine routes that poachers can take and predict when a crime is about to happen. DNA tracing can add to these technologies and convictions using scientific evidence can help with conservation efforts.

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