Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NSU researcher part of team using DNA to protect the rhinoceros from extinction

09.01.2018

Genetic evidence helping match confiscated rhinoceros horns to crime scenes -- Already used in scores of successful prosecutions

Call it CSI meets conservation.


This is a rhinoceros.

Credit: Cindy Harper, D.V.M. Veterinary Genetics Laboratory University of Pretoria

Usage Restrictions: Proper Photo Credit Given with Each Usage

Stephen O'Brien, Ph.D., a research scientist at Nova Southeastern University's (NSU) Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, has worked with colleagues across the globe to create a DNA database of rhinoceros that will be used to help with the criminal prosecution of poachers.

"What we've done is create a powerful tool - a genetic database - that enforcement officials can use when they are building cases against those accused of poaching," Dr. O'Brien said. "These magnificent animals are facing increased dangers, so we need to bring every resource we can to the efforts to save them for generations to come."

The research team included experts from the University of Pretoria's Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, the Theodosius Dobzhansky Center for Genome Bioinformatics, St. Petersburg State University and African wildlife enforcement units.

A new report addresses the illegal taking of African rhinoceros - an important conservation icon - by organized crime syndicates trafficking rhino horns to southeast Asia markets. Rhino poaching is uncontrolled and increasing, from a few incidents a decade ago to more than 1,000 per year today. The profits are enormous, and so far the risks rather modest.

This study changes that.

The study, published today in Current Biology titled "Robust forensic matching of confiscated horns to individual poached African rhinoceros", describes a comprehensive effort to create a large database of individual rhinos' composite short-term repeat-STR (also called microsatellite) genotypes so they could match confiscated tissue-DNA to real time crime scenes for prosecution.

The team developed an extensive database of rhinoceros DNA profiles and demographic information named RhODIS® (Rhino DNA Index System), modeled after CODIS, which is the U.S. FBI's criminal DNA database. The RhODIS® forensic system involved African wildlife ranger training and certification, a chain of custody compliant sampling methodology used for live and dead rhinoceros and rhinoceros horns, an eRhODIS™ field data collection "app" and state-of-the-art DNA genetic individualization. To date, more than 20,000 individual rhinoceros specimens and genotypes have been added to the RhODIS® database.

These data include more than 5,800 forensic case samples where links were made between recovered horns, blood stained evidence items and specific rhinoceros carcasses. In the most recent cases listed in the report, this forensic genetic individualization allowed heavy punishments upon conviction, establishing international legal precedents for prosecuting and convicting smugglers of rhino horns suitable for other endangered species traffic. The applications highlight the legal precedent of utilizing the RhODIS® system for rhinoceros crimes and provide a benchmark for implementation of similar systems for global wildlife trafficking investigations of other species.

African black and white rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis and Ceratotherium simum) are classified on as critically endangered and near threatened, respectively. Their continued survival is jeopardized by habitat loss and a surge in illegal hunting for their horns that are considered of both medicinal value and as a cultural status symbol in Asian countries, mainly Vietnam and China. More than 7,000 rhinoceros have been killed through poaching in the past decade across Africa with South Africa suffering the highest losses.

"We've seen a huge surge in the number of rhinos poached over the past couple of years simply because the financial reward far outweighed the risk," Dr. O'Brien said. "Now that we can genetically tie someone to a specific cases of poaching, the chances of successful prosecution will go up - hopefully the risk will now not be worth it."

The RhODIS® system also provides a comprehensive genetic resource that can be utilized to assist in the management of rhinoceros populations under increasing pressure due to the escalating and non-selective poaching across the African continent. As numbers decline and genetic variability is reduced in the remaining animals, the RhODIS® data is providing a tool to inform genetic management of selected populations to avoid inbreeding while maintaining reproductive potential of the survivors.

###

About Nova Southeastern University (NSU): Located in beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Florida, NSU is ranked among US News & World Report's Top 200 National Research Universities and is a dynamic, private research university providing high-quality educational and research programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and first-professional degree levels. Established in 1964, NSU now includes 16 colleges, the 215,000-square-foot Center for Collaborative Research, a private JK-12 grade school, the Mailman Segal Center for Human Development with specialists in Autism, the world-class NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, and the Alvin Sherman Library, Research and Information Technology Center, which is Florida's largest public library. NSU has campuses in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Miramar, Orlando, Palm Beach, and Tampa, Florida, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico, while maintaining a presence online globally. Classified as a research university with "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, NSU is one of only 50 universities nationwide to also be awarded Carnegie's Community Engagement Classification, and is also the largest private institution in the United States that meets the U.S. Department of Education's criteria as a Hispanic-serving Institution. Please visit http://www.nova.edu for more information about NSU and realizingpotential.nova.edu for more information on the largest fundraising campaign in NSU history.

Media Contact

Joe Donzelli
jdonzelli@nova.edu
954-262-2159

http://www.nova.edu 

Joe Donzelli | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: African wildlife DNA Nova conservation forensic habitat loss rhinos species trafficking

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Measurement of thoughts during knowledge acquisition
25.03.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften

nachricht Important Progress in the Fight against Testicular Cancer
25.03.2019 | Universität Bremen

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The taming of the light screw

DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.

The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Important Progress in the Fight against Testicular Cancer

25.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Measurement of thoughts during knowledge acquisition

25.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Eliminating hepatitis C viruses effectively

25.03.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>