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Rhino poaching cases in Kaziranga National Park from 2006 to 2015

Rhino poaching cases in Kaziranga National Park from 2006 to 2015

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The Indian Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), is primarily bounded to the north-eastern parts of India. Formerly the animal dwelled along the Gangetic plains but now more than 70% of the Indian Rhino population is mainly confined to Assam. Kaziranga National Park, being the largest protected site and home for Indian Rhino in Assam, witnessed terrif...

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... Poaching threats on the existing rhino populations are continuously increasing due to high demands of their horns for traditional chinese medicine and other purposes in the illegal wildlife markets globally [8,9]. Recent reports from India corroborate this information as 239 rhino poaching incidents (~10 % of the current population size) have been recorded between 2001-2016 [10]. The large profits and low conviction rates in illegal wildlife trade has further hastened the threats of poaching by organized syndicates. ...
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The Greater one-horned (GoH) rhinoceros is one of the most charismatic endemic megaherbivores of the Indian subcontinent. Threatened by poaching, habitat loss and disease, the species is found only in small areas of its historical distribution. Increasing demands for rhino horns in chinese traditional medicine has put the existing population under continuing threat, and large profits and low conviction rates make poaching difficult to contain. DNA forensics such as the RhoDIS-Africa program has helped in combating illegal rhino horn trade, but the approach is yet to be optimised for Indian GoH rhinoceros. Here we followed the International Society for Forensic Genetics (ISFG) guidelines to establish a 14 dinucleotide microsatellite panel for Indian GoH rhinoceros DNA profiling. Selected from a large initial pool (n = 34), the microsatellite markers showed high polymorphism, stable peak characteristics, consistent allele calls and produced precise, reproducible genotypes from different types of rhino samples. The panel also showed low genotyping error and produced high statistical power during individual identification (PIDsibs value of 1.2*10⁻⁴). As part of the official RhoDIS-India program, we used this panel to match poached rhino carcass with seized contraband as scientific evidence in court procedure. This program now moves to generate detailed allele-frequency maps of all GoH rhinoceros populations in India and Nepal for development of a genetic database and identification of poaching hotspots and trade routes across the subcontinent and beyond.