Nonhuman perpetrators

Finally, wildlife forensics is not always used in criminal investigations against humans. In 2000, the remains of several individuals from the last population of the highly endangered hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii) were found in Epping Forest National Park in central Queensland. Analysis of DNA confirmed that seven individuals had been killed. The likely perpetrators were identified by the genetic analysis of nearby scats, which revealed microsatellite genotypes typical of dingoes (Canis familiaris dingo). When a wombat genotype that matched one of the dead individuals was amplified from one of the dingo scats, the evidence against the dingoes was compelling, although no prosecution followed! (Banks

Table 8.2 Some species that are traded illegally as food or medicine and have been identified following PCR amplification and characterization of mitochondrial DNA




Sharks, including basking sharks

Dried fin, shark fin

Hoelzel (2001)

(Cetorhinus maximus) and

soup, cartilage pills

hammerhead sharks

(Sphyrna lewini)

Abalone (Haliotis midae, H.

Meat confiscated

Sweijd etal. (1998)

spadicea and H. rubra)

from poaching


Whales, including humpback

Commercial markets

Baker, Cipriano and

(Megaptera novaeangliae), blue

of Japan and Korea

Palumbi (1996)

(Balaenoptera musculus)

and fin whale

(Balaenoptera physalus)

Rhinoceroses, including white rhino

Powdered material

Hsieh et al. (2003)

(Ceratotherium simum) and black

containing rhino

rhino (Diceros bicornis)

horn (used in


Chinese medicine)

Sturgeon, including Acipenser sturio,


Birstein etal. (1998)

A. nudiventris and A. persicus

et al., 2003). In another case in which an animal was the culprit, a particular mountain lion was suspected of killing one person and injuring another in Orange County, California. As part of the investigation the lion was trapped, and DNA samples were taken from its claws and stomach contents. The recovered genotypes matched both of the victims, and investigators therefore concluded that this particular mountain lion was responsible for both attacks (source: California Department of Fish and Game).

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