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Application of STR Markers in Wildlife Forensic Casework Involving Australian Black-Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus spp.)

NCJ Number
Forensic Science International: Genetics Volume: 6 Issue: 5 Dated: September 2012 Pages: 664-670
Nicole E. White; Rick Dawson; Megan L. Coghlan; Silvana R. Tridico; Peter R. Mawson; James Haile; Michael Bunce
Date Published
September 2012
7 pages
Parrots and cockatoos are highly prized aviary birds and the demands for such species has fuelled their illegal trade and harvest from the wild. This article reports on three forensic case studies involving black-cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus spp.) endemic to Australia.
These cases involve suspected poaching and illegal killing of endangered red- and white-tailed black-cockatoos. Through the prior development of 20 polymorphic microsatellite loci and population databases for white- and red-tailed black-cockatoos, the tools are available to conduct high-resolution paternity and individual identity testing. In one case, investigators matched a red-tailed black-cockatoo nestling to a tree hollow from which it was poached through the use of DNA from eggshell recovered from the nest. For the second case, investigators utilized a provenance population database (nest sites), and identified the kinship and geographic origin of a white-tailed black-cockatoo, which was illegally harvested from the wild. The third case determined the number of individual white-tailed black-cockatoos allegedly shot at a fruit grower's orchard from body part remains. These genetic investigations highlight the significance and statistical confidence of DNA profiling and associated databases for endangered taxa, such as exotic birds. The cockatoo population databases are the first of their kind in Australia, and demonstrate the efficacy of such approaches to identify such illegal activity. With a robust set of genetic markers and methodologies in place, investigators aim to broaden population databases to include other cockatoo species of conservation concern. (Published Abstract)