New tests to nab rhino-poachers

Taiwanese scientists have invented two new "fingerprint" tests, that may help to rein in the rhino-poachers.

    The game could soon be up for poachers who have pushed rhinos close to extinction

    Life could get tougher for the poachers since the tests would expose their trail by pointing to the region and even the game reserve from where the animal came.

    The British weekly magazine, New Scientist says the researchers have devised a test that amplifies fragments of a gene, Cytochrome B, which is unique to each of the five species of rhino.

    The gene can be spotted in powdered or carved products, such as traditional medicines, supposed aphrodisiacs, jewellery and ornaments, that help to drive demand for rhino horn.

    Life would get tougher for the poachers since the tests would expose their trail

    New Scientist

    A chemical test, meanwhile, has emerged for raw rhino horn which reveals both the species as well as the individual game reserve from which the animal came.

    Devised with the help of the Institute of Zoology in London, the test uses a mass spectrometer and determines whether the horn came from black rhinos, which eat herbs and woody plants, or the rarer rhino, which eats grass.

    The sample is also assessed by an optical emission spectrometer, which quantifies commonly found trace elements such as iron and copper. The distinctive chemical fingerprint is then matched against a computer database of rhino species and locations.

    Scientists say both tests used together should be a big help for gamekeepers, police and the judiciary in detecting and punishing poachers.

    SOURCE: AFP


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