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Anti-Poaching Rhino DNA

January 9, 2018

Matching poached rhino horns to the scene of the crime using DNA to nab wildlife traffickers.


Southern white rhino with calf, Namibia. (Zigomar/CC BY-SA 3.0, cropped, via Wikipedia

Southern white rhino with calf, Namibia. (Zigomar/CC BY-SA 3.0, cropped, via Wikipedia)


Fighting poachers with DNA. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

International trafficking in rhinoceros horns has put the animals under increasing threat from poachers in recent years. But armed with a massive DNA database of black and white rhinos in Africa, scientists are helping track down these criminals. Dr. Cindy Harper heads the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Her team reports in Current Biology on their efforts to match rhino horns confiscated around the world to rhino DNA left at the scene of poaching crimes.

CINDY HARPER (University of Pretoria):

It has been extremely successful in terms of the number of poachers and traffickers that we’ve been able to assist with their convictions for poaching of a specific rhinoceros.


A major goal is to deter future poaching by showing lucrative crime syndicates that the offense carries significant risks. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the society.

Story by Susanne Bard