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Conservation of Endemic and Threatened Wildlife: Molecular Forensic DNA Against Poaching of the Cypriot Mouflon (Ovis Orientalis Ophion, Bovidae)

NCJ Number
Forensic Science International: Genetics Volume: 6 Issue: 5 Dated: September 2012 Pages: 671-675
Filippo Barbanera; Monica Guerrini; Caterina Beccani; Giovanni Forcina; Petros Anayiotos; Panicos Panayides
Date Published
September 2012
5 pages
The Cypriot mouflon, Ovis orientalis ophion, a protected subspecies endemic to Cyprus, is threatened by poaching. This study deals with a case of alleged poaching that occurred in Cyprus (September, 2010).
Molecular DNA techniques in combination with appropriate reference population database and statistical methods are fundamental tools to forensic wildlife investigations. This is even more relevant when taxa with uncertain systematics are involved, as is the case of the genus Ovis (Bovidae), whose evolution has been influenced by multiple events of domestication. In the current case, a car did not stop at a checkpoint and when finally blocked by the police, several bloodstained exhibits (n=12) were recovered. Three recently deceased mouflons were found by game wardens at the roadside. The Cyprus Veterinary Services established that these animals had been killed by gunshot. As part of the investigation, DNA testing was performed to establish if there was a link between the dead mouflons and the bloodstained exhibits. The mitochondrial Cytochrome-b gene (Cyt-b) and 12 loci of microsatellite DNA were used as markers. The Cyt-b sequences were obtained from 11 exhibits. They were the same as each other and the same as the single haplotype obtained from the three dead mouflons and all the investigated wild Cypriot mouflons (20 individuals). A database of wild mouflons (47 individuals) from which the unknown samples may have originated was generated. The probability of identity (P(ID)) of the microsatellite panel, computed by genotyping all 47 wild mouflons (10 selected loci, P(ID)=10(-5)), allowed investigators to assign nine exhibits to two out of the three carcasses (seven with very strong support: Likelihood Ratio, LR greater than 3000 and Random Match Probability, RMP, less than 10(-3)). This study represents the first genetic reference for the Cypriot mouflon and the first published material of forensic wildlife investigations in Cyprus. (Published Abstract)