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Application of DNA Forensic Techniques for Identifying Poached Guanacos (Lama guanicoe) in Chilean Patagonia

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Guanaco (Lama guanicoe) is a protected and widely distributed ungulate in South America. A poacher, after killing guanacos in Valle Chacabuco, Chilean Patagonia, transported and stored the meat. Samples were retrieved by local police but the suspect argued that the meat was from a horse. Mitochondrial cytochrome b gene (774 pb), 15 loci microsatellites, and SRY gene were used to identify the species, number of animals and their population origin, and the sex of the animals, respectively. Analysis revealed that the samples came from a female (absence of SRY gene) Patagonian guanaco (assignment probability between 0.0075 and 0.0282), and clearly distinguishing it from sympatric ungulates (E-value = 0). Based on the evidence obtained in the field in addition to forensic data, the suspect was convicted of poaching and illegally carrying fire arms. This is the first report of molecular tools being used in forensic investigations of Chilean wildlife indicating its promising future application in guanaco management and conservation.
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Keywords: DNA analysis; South American camelids; forensic science; poaching; sex identification; species identification

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Laboratorio de Genómica y Biodiversidad, Departamento de Ciencias Básicas, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad del Bío-Bío, Casilla 447, Chillán, Chile. 2: Administración Vida Silvestre, Parque Patagonia, Conservación Patagónica, Aysén, Chile. 3: Département de biologie, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada. 4: Laboratorio de Ecología de Vida Silvestre, Facultad de Ciencias Forestales, Universidad de Chile, Correo 9605, Santiago, Chile.

Publication date: 01 September 2009

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