|Pampas deer (Ozotoceros bezoarticus)|
Illegal hunting is one of the major threats to vertebrate populations in tropical regions. This practice has serious consequences not only for the target populations, but also for the dynamics and structure of tropical ecosystems. Generally, in cases of suspected illegal hunting, the only evidence available is pieces of meat, skin or bone. In these cases, species identification can only be done by using molecular technologies.
Brazilian researchers have now used DNA Barcoding in three cases of suspected wildlife poaching. They were able to identify the species killed and solve ongoing criminal investigations.
|Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris)|
In July 2010, based on suspected illegal hunting, a wildlife inspector of the Brazilian Environmental Agency (IBAMA) seized and sent biltong samples of a mammal species to Sao Paulo State University. According to the inspector, the suspect claimed that the meat was pork, but there was no evidence to confirm this assertion. It turned out to be Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris). Along with this sample, the researchers received a second meat sample, which was removed from the wings of an unidentified bird species. This was identified as Chaco Chachalaca (Ortalis canicollis). In February 2011, they received a mammal meat sample taken by another IBAMA wildlife inspector. The seized meat was confiscated from a suspect’s freezer during routine surveillance activity and could be identified as Pampas deer (Ozotoceros bezoarticus). Hunting these animals is illegal in Brazil and and based on the results this study, the defendants were found guilty and punished with fines; they may still be sentenced to prison for a period of 6 to 12 months.
|Chaco Chachalaca (Ortalis canicollis)|
A wonderful example that molecular forensic techniques can provide an important tool that enables local law enforcement agencies to apprehend illegal poachers.