Last Updated:  25/11/2020

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Project Pitch By: AARANYAK

 

Proposed Project Title


High-throughput DNA forensics for wildlife crime mitigation in Northeast India

 

Thematic Area

Ensuring environmental sustainability, ecological balance, wildlife & natural resources conservation

Sub Thematic Area

Natural Resources Conservation

Project Synopsis

Wildlife crime mitigation is a challenge for the Forest Department and other law enforcement agencies due to the high demand for wild animal body parts in the illegal international markets. DNA forensics can play an important role in wildlife crime mitigation through identifying species, individuals, geographic origin etc., of seized materials from suspects thus establishing a link between the criminal and the crime. The proposed project aims to develop the infrastructure of existing DNA forensic analysis facility at Wildlife Genetics Laboratory, Aaranyak, provide forensic support and conduct training for field-level officers of various law enforcement agencies which it has been providing since 2014.
 
 
 

Overview of the Proposed Project

Estimated Budget
INR 1.0 Cr - INR 5.0 Cr
Proposed Location
North East India, Assam , Guwahati

Key Project Partners
Government,Academic Institute

Project Status
Already Implemented-Replicable
 

Facts

Beneficiary Type (Primary): Forest Department and Law Enforcement Agencies
Beneficiary Type (Secondary):
Estimated No. of Beneficiaries: above 10000 Individuals
Status of Baseline Survey: Already Done
 
 
 

Proposed Project Description

Introduction:

 

Despite legislations for wildlife conservation are being at place, the value of global illegal trade of wildlife is estimated to be around $7-23 billion a year. Such illegal activities are threatening the survival of the endangered species and also affecting sustainable extraction of economically important species. A major challenge for law enforcement agencies in mitigation of wildlife crime is low conviction rate due to lack of forensic evidences establishing the link of criminals to the crime scene.

 

In recent years, DNA forensics have emerged as a new applied science which has immense potential in mitigation of wildlife crime. Through the use of advanced DNA techniques identities of species and individual(s), sex, parentage, geographic origin etc., of trace amount of biological material seized from suspects can be determined which is otherwise not possible through conventional method.

 

The Wildlife Genetics Laboratory (WGL), Aaranyak, since its inception in 2008, has been undertaking conservation genetic research and has been working on various globally threatened wildlife species in India as well as abroad. WGL, the only facility of its kind in northeast India dedicated to wildlife research, was recognised as a forensic facility by the Assam Forest Department in 2014 and since then the laboratory has provided DNA forensic analysis support to dozens of wildlife crime related cases every year in the state.

 

With the increasing demand for support related to DNA analysis of forensic cases as well as population genetic studies to support management interventions, they propose to expand and upgrade the laboratory facilities at WGL, so that more manpower and analysis facilities could be accommodated for high throughput analysis required for speedy processing of forensic investigations.

 

Objectives:

 

  • To upgrade infrastructure of Wildlife Genetics Laboratory of Aaranyak for high-throughput forensic DNA analysis work.
  • To provide wildlife forensic DNA analysis service to state forest departments of Northeast India.
  • To provide training to frontline staff of forest department in forensic sampling of wildlife crime scenes
  • To provide low-cost forensic field sampling kits to state forest departments of Northeast India

 

Timeline: 3 years
Target Area: Seven states of Northeast India.
Target Group: State forest department, Other law-implementing agencies.

 

 

Activities:

 

Activities for Objective 1 –

 

They will establish new DNA sequencing facility for faster processing of samples and RT-PCR (Real Time PCR) facility for accurate DNA profiling of samples. Additionally, a robotic DNA extraction facility for obtaining DNA from very trace amount of samples critical for forensic work will be established. Further, they will expand the physical space of the laboratory and create workspace for three more laboratory biologists, along with the required equipment and consumables.

 

Activities for Objective 2 –

 

WGL will provide DNA forensic analysis support to the state Forest Departments and other investigative and law enforcement agencies in cases related to the wildlife crime. The services provided will include identification of species through DNA sequencing and matching of individual confiscated samples to that of crime scene, determining the number of individual animals of a scheduled animal, analysis of parentage of samples in case of new-born elephant calf in captivity etc. through DNA fingerprinting. Their extensive genetic database for endangered species such as greater one-horned rhino enables them to determine geographic origin of samples, which helps determining the scene of crime in case of confiscated samples.

 

Activities for Objective 3 –

 

Wildlife crime and forensic DNA experts will conduct hands-on training for the frontline staff of Forest Departments of different states of Northeast India as well as other investigative and law enforcement agencies on collection of forensic samples for DNA analysis.

 

Activities for Objective 4 -

 

Wildlife Genetics Division of Aaranyak has already developed a low-cost forensic sample collection kit with sampling guidelines. They will provide 1000 such sampling kits to the Forest Department as per their requirements.

 

Measurable Indicators:

 

  • RT PCR facility established and operating
  • DNA sequencing facility established operating
  • Robotic DNA extraction facility established and operating
  • Workspace facility for three laboratory biologists created.
  • Number of forensic cases/ samples analysed
  • Number of cases where field assistance provided for forensic DNA sampling of crime scenes
  • Number of trainings conducted
  • Number of frontline staff trained
  • Number of forensic sampling kits distributed

 

Expected Outcome:

 

  • Enhanced and expedite forensic sample processing capability of WGL.
  • Enhanced rate of conviction in wildlife crime cases in northeast India due to use of DNA technology.
  • Capacity building of various agencies in evidence collection for DNA forensic analysis through trainings being offered locally in the region.
  • Increased awareness among agencies on use of advanced DNA forensic techniques for wildlife crime mitigation.

 

Sustainability:

 

The proposed work will strengthen the existing genetic database of the endangered species of northeast India which has been created by WGL over the past decade. This is crucial for future forensic investigations of wildlife crime in the region. Further, WGL will continue its forensic DNA analysis support to different investigative and law enforcement agencies through future endeavours. The facilities established will continue to serve the region in investigating wildlife crime cases.

 
 

Salient Features

  1. Upgradation of only dedicated wildlife genetic laboratory cum wildlife DNA forensic facility in Northeast India for increasing the rate of conviction and lowering wildlife crime cases.
  2. Wildlife DNA forensics made accessible locally to the state forest departments.
  3. Training to frontline staff to ensure proper handling of crime scene and sample collection for forensic analysis.
 

About AARANYAK

Aaranyak is a front ranking environmental research organization in the non-government sector of India having its head office at Guwahati, Assam. Established in the year 1989 as a registered society under the Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860, Aaranyak received recognition as Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (SIRO) by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) of Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India in 2006.

 

Since its inception, has been working to foster conservation of biodiversity in North East India through Research &monitoring , Environment Education, training & outreach and advocacy for legal and policy reform to usher a new era of ecological security. Aaranyak at present have 15 divisions which form the core of its conservation strategy .

 

Aaranyak has won many accolades from different organizations and Govt. Deptt. around the globe, some of those are RBS ‘Earth Guardian Award 2011’ conferred by the Royal Bank of Scotland in 2011, Indira Gandhi ParyavaranPurashkar , by Ministry of Environment and Forest, G.O.I in 2012, Institutional Award in the field of Science and Technology’ in 2017. 

 
 

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