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DNA registers of legally obtained wildlife and derived products as means to identify illegal takes
Palsbøll, P.J.; Bérubé, M.; Skaug, H.J.; Raymakers, C. (2006). DNA registers of legally obtained wildlife and derived products as means to identify illegal takes. Conserv. Biol. 20(4): 1284-1293.
In: Conservation Biology. Wiley: Boston, Mass.. ISSN 0888-8892, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

    Balaenoptera acutorostrata Lacépède, 1804 [WoRMS]; Marine
Author keywords
    genetic tagging; minke whale; poaching; probability of identity

Authors  Top 
  • Palsbøll, P.J.
  • Bérubé, M.
  • Skaug, H.J.
  • Raymakers, C.

    The exploitation and sale of wildlife species that are endangered in only part of their range present regulators with the critical challenge of separating legal from illegal takes. Wildlife DNA registers created from tissue samples of legally obtained individual wildlife specimens can address this problem by allowing managers to identify unregistered (presumably illegally obtained) specimens. We tested the effectiveness of the only current, fully operational wildlife DNA register of individual genetic profiles collected from legally caught minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata). Twenty minke whale tissue samples collected at markets in Norway and 2 additional samples collected from beached minke whales in Denmark were genotyped at 12 loci used by the Norwegian minke whale DNA register. Genetic profiles of these samples then were compared against the 2676 individual profiles deposited in the Norwegian register. The high number of genetic markers used to identify individuals in our study allowed consistent matching of sample and reference profiles despite an overall error rate (due to experimental and interlaboratory data standardization) estimated at 0.015 per locus. Of the 22 test samples only the 2 Danish samples failed to match an existing profile in the Norwegian minke whale DNA register. Our results show that the basic principle of wildlife DNA registers can work in a real-life situation. The strength of wildlife DNA registers lies in their ability to unambiguously identify unregistered specimens with the aid of sensitive genetic methods that enable analysis of highly processed or degraded tissue samples. Our study also highlights a number of methodological problems such as laboratory errors and interlaboratory data standardization, which need be addressed to ensure a successful implementation of wildlife DNA registers.

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