Wild animals of the cat family 'Felidae' are the target animals of poachers and illegal traders, because of the high demand of their body parts and amount of money involved in it. Hair are the most commonly encountered physical evidence in the poaching and illegal trade of these animals in the form of fur/hides. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and The Wildlife (Protection) Act-1972 in India provides protection to the wild animals. Poaching and trade of any protected wild animal or its body part and products thereof is strictly prohibited and are punishable offenses under these laws. In order to prosecute an offender under law successfully, it is mandatory to identify the species of wild animal(s) involved correctly. In the present work, morphological, keratin protein and mitochondrial DNA analysis of hair of thirteen highly endangered and protected felid species found in India have been described and illustrated in detail. Species specific characteristics have been generated, which could be utilized to identify the species from hair samples.
India has been identified as one of the twelve mega-biodiversity nations of the world. In India, wildlife is protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act-1972 and India is also a party to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). However, despite such good legislation, poaching has increased over the years, decimating the populations of wild animals. This is attributed to the lack of adequate species identification techniques and data base that can be used to identify species from confiscated items. Thus most of the wildlife offence cases fail in court of law. Hair is found invariably in poaching cases related to mammals and the value of hair evidence is well acknowledged in forensic analysis. An attempt was made to fill the aforesaid lacuna and the present study was undertaken to characterise hair of Artiodactyl (Bovids and Cervids) species listed under Schedule-I of Wildlife (Protection) Act-1972, through microscopy, Keratin profiling and mitochondrial DNA analysis. The findings of the microscopic examination, keratin and DNA analysis will help immensely in identification of species from exhibits of wildlife offence cases
The scientific study of hair is called Trichology and when used in criminal justice delivery system, it is termed as Forensic Trichology. Forensic hair examination is a unique field developed especially for criminal investigation and it is not practiced in industrial and academic fields. The objectives of this study were: to collect and compare hair samples from different body parts of humans and animals, to compare microscopical data of different hair samples and analyze their forensic significance, and to compare human and animal hair. The research revealed that microscopic examination by an experienced scientist can help in narrowing down the search to origin of hair, even if the hair evidence is very minimal. Examination of exhibits under microscopes will always provide good information and investigation leads in a very non-destructive manner. It was also found that a careful microscopic examination of hair will reveal morphological features that can distinguish human hair from animal hair. One main advantage of Microscopic examination is that it can overcome the vast, critical and expensive method of DNA profiling.
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