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Before they are gone – improving gazelle protection using wildlife forensic genetics

  • Author Footnotes
    1 Joint authorship: these authors contributed equally to this paper.
    Lia Hadas
    Footnotes
    1 Joint authorship: these authors contributed equally to this paper.
    Affiliations
    The Koret School of Veterinary Medicine, The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 76100 Rehovot, Israel
    Search for articles by this author
  • Author Footnotes
    1 Joint authorship: these authors contributed equally to this paper.
    Dalia Hermon
    Footnotes
    1 Joint authorship: these authors contributed equally to this paper.
    Affiliations
    DNA and Forensic Biology Laboratory, Division of Identification and Forensic Science (DIFS), Israel Police, National H.Q., Jerusalem, Israel
    Search for articles by this author
  • Gila Kahila Bar-Gal
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author.
    Affiliations
    The Koret School of Veterinary Medicine, The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 76100 Rehovot, Israel
    Search for articles by this author
  • Author Footnotes
    1 Joint authorship: these authors contributed equally to this paper.

      Abstract

      Throughout their habitats gazelles (genus Gazella) face immediate threats due to anthropogenic effects and natural environmental changes. Excessive poaching plays a major role in their populations decline. Three unique populations of gazelles currently live in Israel: mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella), Dorcas gazelle (Gazella Dorcas) and acacia gazelle (Gazella arabica acacia). Ongoing habitat degradation and constant pressure from illegal hunting has caused a continuous decrease in the last 10 years, stressing the need for drastic measures to prevent species extinction. Wildlife forensic science assists enforcement agencies in the escalating arms race against poachers. Wildlife forensic genetic tests being implemented in our laboratory offer both species and individual identification, which rely on two mitochondrial genes (12S rRNA and 16S rRNA) and nine nuclear Short Tandem Repeats (STR), respectively. The current study, presents a poaching case in which mitochondrial DNA-based species identification revealed the presence of mountain gazelle DNA on the seized items. Subsequently, STR markers linked the suspect to more than one gazelle, increasing the severity of the criminal charges.

      Keywords

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