Hooo-Hooo Volume 10, nr 4 - Page 9

Information and background of RhODIS™ – the Rhinoceros DNA Index System for African white and black rhinoceros. C. Harper. The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (VGL) at the Faculty of Veterinary Science of the University of Pretoria at Onderstepoort has been providing a DNA profiling and parentage testing service to the horse, cattle and dog industries since 2000. The VGL performs all micro-chipping and DNA testing of Thoroughbred horses for the National Horseracing Authority of South Africa and handles over 12 000 samples per year of various species. The VGL is self-funded and all staff salaries, equipment and overheads are covered by service income. All additional income or profit is channelled into genetic based research projects and worthwhile programs. In 2006 the VGL identified a need to develop expertise in animal forensic testing and approached the Trace Wildlife Forensic Network in the UK. A Wildlife DNA Forensic course was held collaboratively with Trace in 2007 and during this course a project was launched collaboratively between the members of Trace, the VGL representing the University of Pretoria and the University of Wales, Bangor to develop a system to individually identify rhinoceros from horn samples. The horn and blood samples from individual white rhinoceros were supplied by SANParks as part of a registered SANParks project. The project was completed successfully and the data on the white rhinoceros was published as part of a PhD thesis of a student from the University of Wales, Bangor in 2009. A poster reporting the successful outcome of the project was presented as a report to SANParks at the Savanna Science Network Meeting in Skukuza in March 2010, by the VGL, on behalf of the collaborators and PhD student. A paper that describes the development of the sex test using the zinc finger locus was published jointly by the collaborators on the original project in 2010. The horn DNA profiling method has subsequently been validated and optimized. The number of loci used in the original test has almost doubled and the horn DNA extraction method has been re-assessed and now uses the latest technology available for human forensic DNA extraction. This method is now used routinely in the VGL to individually identify rhinoceros horns from stockpiles, for security purposes and to link recovered horns to individual poaching cases, thereby linking a horn trafficker to a poaching incident or a poacher caught with horns in his possession with the carcass of an individual rhinoceros. The success of this method has led to the conviction and one year sentencing of Donald Allison, an antique dealer from the UK that attempted to smuggle two rhinoceros horns from a deceased zoo rhinoceros to China. DNA extraction was performed in the UK by Trace and the profile testing was done by the VGL in this case. It has also led to the conviction and subsequent sentencing to 10 years imprisonment of Xuang Hoang, a Vietnamese man that tried to smuggle rhinoceros horns that included horns from a poached rhinoceros. The horns were linked through DNA testing by the VGL. Two Mozambican citizens were also sentenced to a total of 16 years in prison after being apprehended in the Kruger National Park with rhinoceros horns in their possession. The horns were linked with DNA to a carcass found poached in the park previously. The value of this method is increasing with increasing numbers of rhinoceros DNA profiles being added to the database weekly. Each poaching incident currently being investigated has as part of its standard operating procedure, the collection of samples for DNA testing. This provides the opportunity to link not only the horns, if recovered within the country 2016 SEPTEMBER 9