RhODIS, a DNA-based system, to be used to investigate poaching of Rhinos in Assam
Rhino Indexing System, a DNA-based forensic tool named RhODIS to be used by Assam government to investigate and prosecute suspects of rhino poaching.
Rhino DNA Indexing System (RhODIS) was demonstrated to forest officials of Assam on 27 May 2014 to help them prevent poaching of Rhinos in Assam. The demonstration was given by South African wildlife experts namely, Cindy Harper and Rod Potter at Assam State Zoo.
Besides, Harper and Potter will visit Kaziranga National Park and educate its forest officials on the RhODIS’ and its utility in crime-scene investigation.
Process of use of RhODIS
RhODIS is a tool that involves collection of unique DNA profile of each individual rhino into a database. This database can be presented by the zoo officials and government as legal evidence in cases of rhino poaching in the state.
RhODIS will be used to present as a legal evidence document for punishment of the poachers because in maximum number of cases, they remain unpunished due to the unavailability of evidence to prove them as poachers.
Plan of implementation of RhODIS in Assam
The State government of Assam plans to introduce RhODIS in the State in near future. To build a database of the DNA profiles of translocated, poached or naturally dead rhinos, the State will introduce RhODIS in collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature – India.
In 2013, about 41 rhinos were poached and dehorned in Assam while in 2014 about 16 rhinos have been killed till date.
Main reason for poaching is use of rhino horn for various purposes like medicinal use and due to this the activity of poaching has emerged as the major threat to rhino conservation efforts. According to Principal Chief Conservator of Forest and Chief Wildlife Warden in Assam, RP Agarwalla, the horn has its market majorly in China and Vietnam.
As per the estimates about 2553 rhinos are present in Assam of which
• Kaziranga National Park has 2329
• Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park has 100
• Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary has 93
• Manas National Park has 31
Rhino DNA Indexing System (RhODIS) was developed in South Africa to investigate and prosecute suspects in cases of rhino poaching.
Introduction of RhODIS has helped officials of South Africa to crack down rhino poaching by international gangs. Effective prosecution of punishment have also been taken against the gang
DNA database of about 5000 rhinos collected by Veterinary Science of the University of Pretoria’s Veterinary Genetics Laboratory has contributed in more than 400 probes in South and Eastern African region.