The DNA profiling of Rhinos in northeast and other parts of India to gather evidence against poachers or anyone in possession of rhino horns is underway.
The profiling system called Rhino DNA Indexing System (RhoDIS) is under preparation at the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
Scientists at WII which has been entrusted with the responsibility of preparing the rhino DNA database from rhinos at Kaziranga, Manas and Orang national parks and Pobitora wildlife sanctuary in Assam, and in Jaldapara and Dudhwa national parks in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.
Most of the time lack of evidence enables arrested poachers to escape the law, resulting in an abysmal conviction rate of less than four per cent in Assam – the State accounting for the largest number of the great Indian one-horned rhino.
Field sampling from dung had been completed at Manas and Pobitora, besides Dudhwa.
The DNA profiling is also aimed at understanding the genetic status of existing rhino populations across rhino habitats, which in turn can play a significant role in their efficient management keeping in mind the long-term conservation goals.
A State forest official said that efforts were on to assist the roll-out of the RhoDIS in all the rhino-bearing areas of Assam and help the formation of an authentic database of all the rhinos of the State.
The DNA profile is being prepared from the tissue samples from dead rhinos and rhinos tranquillised for treatment and translocation, from mucous membrane enveloping the dung samples collected from the field for free ranging rhinos and from rhino horns available in the custody of State forest department.
The method can be used to individually identify horns from stockpiles 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 rhino. The matching of confiscated rhino contraband with existing database for court prosecution has already started in the states with rhino population.