News Release: SANParks receives DNA sample kits to fight rhino poaching
22 June 2011
Speaking at the handover ceremony, SANParks, Chief Executive Officer, Dr David Mabunda said throughout the years DNA evidence has ensured that criminal elements are locked up as the analysis of information collected proved to be the only working weapon that cannot be disputed to halt criminals in their tracks. “This will certainly go a long way in changing the trend of suspects found in possession of rhino horn only being charged with possession as the horns in their possession will be linked to a carcass lying somewhere in a national park or game reserve.”
According to Dr Mabunda the kits would also assist rhino managers with the individual rhino in their care. “Hence we would like to encourage them to take full advantage of this opportunity so that we may be able to better protect our rhino from criminals.”
He said these kits are expected to help prosecutors be even tougher on those caught in possession of rhino horns.
The project is supported by a host of esteemed private sector companies such as SAB Miller, BMW, 702 Talk Radio through its LeadSA Campaign and the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Veterinary Science.
SAB Head of Sustainable Development, Andre Fourie said it is appalling state of affairs when criminal activities result in dead rhino becoming more valuable than when alive. “Keeping a rhino safe is a dangerous and expensive exercise and developing a DNA database will go a way to ensuring that illegal activity is curbed.”
He said SAB as a company is dependent on the country’s natural resources and ecosystems… “and we are therefore acutely aware of our responsibility towards caring for South African society and the environment.”
According to Dr Cindy Harper, Head of Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (VGL) at the Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria the primary aim of the RhODIS database is to support investigation of poaching incidents through forensic DNA testing. The ability to obtain a full DNA profile from rhino horn allows us to match recovered horns to specific poaching incidents. The main project aim is now being achieved with DNA evidence being used successfully in court cases related to specific poaching incidents.
The initial project to obtain DNA from the rhino horn was done in collaboration with the TRACE Wildlife Network in the UK and the samples were supplied by SANParks. The DNA sampling kits were developed through a combined effort of SANParks environmental crime investigation unit and the South African Police forensic science laboratory in Pretoria and the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory of the University of Pretoria.
Reynold “Rey” Thakhuli, General Manager: Media Liaison, Events & Stakeholder Relations, Tel: (012) 426 5203, Mobile: 073 373 4999, e-mail: email@example.com