A database of rhinoceros DNA hopes to help prosecute poachers, the Guardian reports.
Poachers kill rhinoceroses for their horns, which are thought by some to have medicinal properties and are seen as status symbols, a release from Cell Press says. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has listed the black and white rhinoceroses as endangered and near threatened, respectively, it adds. It also notes that in the last 10 years, 7,000 African rhinoceros have been hunted and killed illegally.
The Rhinoceros DNA index system, or RhODIS, was established in 2010 and contains samples from 20,000 rhinos. Researchers from the University of Pretoria and elsewhere compared data from nearly 4,000 rhinos in the system to find that there are three subspecies of black rhinos and just one of white rhinos, as they report in Current Biology. They also calculated the odds that a match could arise between a forensic sample and a sample in the database by chance, noting that the odds vary between black and white rhinos.
"That's what we need to show, because one of the defense's arguments [in court] could be 'yeah, but it could have been another rhino that matched,'" first author Cindy Harper from tells the Guardian.