Hooo-Hooo Volume 10, nr 4 - Page 10

WildLife Group of the SAVA of origin, but also outside of the country including the consumer countries, as well as linking weapons, clothing and other objects used in the crime to a specific poaching incident. This provides the forensic evidence for conviction and harsher sentencing. To date, over 400 rhinoceros poaching cases have been submitted to the VGL for DNA analysis and this process is ongoing. A further advantage of this system includes the tracking of individual animals from the point of capture in the national parks to the farm where the animal is destined. Each movement thereafter requires a permit from the Department of Environmental Affairs at a provincial level and the taking of a DNA sample for identification is a condition for a permit. Rhinoceros horns recovered from poaching incidents and following stock pile theft can also be identified, and if added to the database previously can be returned to the legal owner. Animals found at locations other than specified on issued permits will also require investigation. The principle of the RhODIS™ database is based on the CODIS system of human DNA profiles of the FBI, hence the name. The main aim of this database is the forensic application of matching recovered horns to poached rhinoceros carcasses. RhODIS™ is a single secure database that is populated with DNA profile data of individual rhinoceroses produced under stringent quality compliant laboratory conditions in the VGL. Any laboratory wishing to upload to the database in future, would have to comply with all quality requirements and pass regular proficiency tests to ensure the integrity of the data. Under RhODIS™ this laboratory system will be produced and be made available as required. An external laboratory will act as the reciprocal proficiency testing laboratory of the VGL to ensure data integrity. A recent collaboration between Kenya in the form of KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, which included a training visit by three representatives from these organizations to the VGL, represents the first step in the expansion of the program to another laboratory. 10 Additional benefits of this database include population management through genetic population analysis. This analysis will be provided as an additional benefit of RhODIS™ to owners that request it. The RhODIS™ system allows the owner of an animal/s or samples to maintain ownership of the samples and data derived from these samples. Samples and data may not be given to any other owners, submitters, researchers or individuals without the original owner’s permission. An evidentiary agreement when submitting samples will simply mean that all DNA profiles added to the RhODIS™ database will be subject to forensic interrogation as part of the investigation of poaching cases and movement of rhinoceros and rhinoceros horns. Application to use data for specific research may be made to the RhODIS™ management committee and this will be considered and granted only after consultation with the owners of the samples. It is hoped that this centralized system will ensure that questions regarding rhinoceros genetics are answered and that the answers are provided to the people on the ground directly and within a reasonable time or at regular intervals as required. The stringent quality requirements of RhODIS™ have extended to the collection of field samples to ensure that the integrity of any data used in court cannot be questioned. This has been done by the development and distribution of a RhODIS™ sample collection kit. The kit has been developed in collaboration with the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory in Pretoria and the Environmental Crime Investigating Unit of SANParks. The kit contains blood tubes, sample bottles for tissue and horn shavings, a disposable scalpel, drill bit, gloves prelabelled with bar-coded labels and packed in a sealed container. A form describing how the kit should be used and providing space to write the information that is required for the database is included with the container in a sealed forensic evidence bag. A second unsealed bag is also included to return the container with samples, completed form and used or unused items. Data is captured from the form at the laboratory, samples are processed and used items disposed or de-contaminated and re-packed to reduce