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.
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- Species identification
- Wildlife forensics