Tuesday, February 1, 2011

DNA Sample Kits to Be Used in Battle Against Rhino Poaching

Northern white rhinoceros

Africa has lately seen one of the most saddening and ruthless moments in its wildlife. The rhino population has fallen drastically in South Africa, due to rampant poaching and the thriving illegal wildlife trade. But now, it appears that there may be a light of hope for these magnificent creatures. A DNA sample kit is expected to help prosecutors, and anyone in the line of defense to save the rhinos from further poaching. The purpose of this kit is to carry out tests to see if they positively link a rhino horn to a specific rhino carcass. That way, authorities will easily be able catch up with suspects on charges of illegally hunting a rhino as well as possession of its horn. According to Johan Kruger, national head of the organized crime component in the office of National Director of Public Prosecutions, the DNA evidence can now be used to connect suspects in possession of horns with the actual carcass regardless of how much time has passed.

David Mabunda, chief executive of South African National Parks (SANParks), stated that the kit will also help rhino owners and managers to document individual rhinos in their care. He further added that the information gathered from DNA samples would be stored on a central database accessible only for registered professionals. Although a single sample would cost 1,680 rands, Mr. Mabunda said the initial tests and registration will be done free of charge. This DNA kit was developed by the department of genetics in Onderstepoort in partnership with SANParks, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), and the South African Police. It was then showed to members of the National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit from SANParks, the South African Police, and the NPA who had recently attended a course on crime scene management. Mr. Mabunda also added that SANParks and private funders were funding for the project. Among contributors included South African Breweries, who had already sponsored 100,000 rands.

I have a feeling of hope that authorities in South Africa are now stepping up in this ongoing battle against rhino poaching. During this bloodthirsty process, poachers have been using sophisticated technology to target wild rhinos and making off with their prized possessions. But now, it appears that the authorities are on the verge of getting the upper hand in the battle almost like fighting fire with fire. The technology, in this case, is a project of issuing DNA sample kits in order to apprehend these sadistic poachers. However, South Africa's northern neighbor, Zimbabwe, has also been badly affected by rhino poaching. I sure hope that authorities up there would be issued with these kits as a step in combating this ongoing crisis.

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