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DNA Profiling of Birds of Prey- Fluorescent Multiplexing - WC05005

The theft of birds of prey from the wild for trade and falconry remains a serious threat to their natural populations both in the UK and internationally. DNA profiling methods based upon minisatellite single locus probes were developed under a previous DoE contract and has proved critical in securing convictions in more than 15 court cases against raptor keepers who had illegally attempted to ‘launder’ wild birds into the captive population in Britain.
Under a previous DETR-funded project, sets of microsatellite DNA markers have been isolated which should enable DNA evidence to be obtained from feathers (as opposed to blood samples). However, to take full advantage of these newly developed markers they need to be used simultaneously in a ‘fluorescent multiplex’. Development and implementation of such a system would allow the rapid construction of databases and enable automatic comparisons between any sampled individuals avoiding the need to re-test.
The research would involve: the acquisition of control samples from the chosen target species and their close relatives via zoos, research institutes and private keepers; the identification of DNA sequences which are unique to a given species; and, the design and validation of a test which recognises the presence of the species-specific tag. Validation would involve the use of blind trials of processed and other derivative material.
DNA profiling using fluorescent multiplexing is already widely used in human forensics. The development of similar protocols for use with birds of prey should enable profiling to be undertaken much faster and more economically. It will also allow the rapid construction of databases to drastically reduce the time taken to compare the results obtained from different samples. Whilst the technique itself will need to be carried out in a specialist DNA laboratory, the benefits will be reaped directly by both the enforcement authorities (Police and Customs), Defra's Wildlife Inspectorate and the keepers/traders themselves.
Project Documents
• Final Report : DNA Profiling of Birds of Prey- Fluorescent Multiplexing – Final report   (958k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2004

To: 2007

Cost: £143,192
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Wildlife DNA Services
Environmental Protection              
Nature conservation              
Wildlife conservation              
Fields of Study
Wildlife Conservation