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Anti-poaching: Forest Department to acquire portable devices for spot DNA samples
The Tamil Nadu Forest Department is set to get portable DNA barcoding devices for on-the-spot DNA samples of poached wildlife.
The machines will be used in tiger reserves and protected elephant corridors of Tamil Nadu, Dr Shekhar Kumar Niraj, director, Advanced Institute of Wildlife Research and Conservation (AIWRC), told DTNext on the sidelines of a three-day workshop on modern forensic approach to investigate wildlife crimes.
After the devices are customised to Indian standards, an investigating officer will be able to perform basic autopsies at the crime scene, Niraj said. “For example, if we can immediately do a test on a bone seized from a poacher, it will help us ascertain whether it belongs to a tiger, leopard or a deer without a time lag,” he added. Countries like Germany and France are already using DNA barcoding machines for specimen studies, we just need to work out cost and logistics to start using it here, Niraj noted.
Pointing out that the country was facing a splurge in wildlife crimes because of a demand in global illegal wildlife trade, Niraj said that currently, 32,900 cases of wildlife poaching have been reported in India and the conviction rate is poor. To address the issues, there is a need for better forensic approach and wildlife network among stakeholder states and national agencies like DRI, Customs, Police, BSF and cross-border security agencies, he added.
Tamil Nadu, through AIWRC, is looking at a few new initiatives, touted to be the first-of-its-kind in the country. Besides the DNA machines, labs with artificial intelligence, genetic analysis with a fool-proof study of poached animals, DNA database coding are a few factors that the AIWRC is working on, Niraj said.