DNA detective: a review of molecular approaches to wildlife forensics

Erika Alacs, Arthur Georges, Nancy FitzSimmons, Judith Robertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

151 Citations (Scopus)


Illegal trade of wildlife is growing internationally and is worth more than USD$20 billion per year. DNA technologies are well suited to detect and provide evidence for cases of illicit wildlife trade yet many of the methods have not been verified for forensic applications and the diverse range of methods employed can be confusing for forensic practitioners. In this review, we describe the various genetic techniques used to provide evidence for wildlife cases and thereby exhibit the diversity of forensic questions that can be addressed using currently available genetic technologies. We emphasise that the genetic technologies to provide evidence for wildlife cases are already available, but that the research underpinning their use in forensics is lacking. Finally we advocate and encourage greater collaboration of forensic scientists with conservation geneticists to develop research programs for phylogenetic, phylogeography and population genetics studies to jointly benefit conservation and management of traded species and to provide a scientific basis for the development of forensic methods for the regulation and policing of wildlife trade.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-194
Number of pages15
JournalForensic Science, Medicine and Pathology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2009


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