North East India’s premier research oriented biodiversity conservation organization, the Wildlife Genetics Laboratory of Aaranyak, now supports Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department in wildlife forensic DNA investigation of wildlife crime cases in the frontier hill state.
The laboratory provided DNA analysis service in two wildlife crime cases under Pakke Wildlife Sanctuary Division and Hapoli Wildlife Division of Arunachal Pradesh.
This laboratory is the first and only one of its kind in northeast India as on date, has been providing wildlife forensic DNA analysis service to Assam Forest Department since 2014. It has provided crucial assistance in more than 80 wildlife crime cases in Assam so far.
Since its inception in 2008, Wildlife Genetics Laboratory of Aaranyak has been pioneering conservation genetics studies in northeastern India.
Udayan Borthakur, Senior Scientist and Head of Wildlife Genetics Division at Aaranyak, says, “This is a significant step for our laboratory to be able to expand our area of operation to another state in the region. We are happy to extend our services based on requests received from Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department in this regard”.
He added, “One of the major shortfalls in minimizing wildlife crime is the low rate of conviction in the court of law. Forensic science, including the application of DNA technology, provides the crucial evidence required to establish a crime in the court of law and thereby increase the rate of conviction”.
Talking about the Aranyak’s Wildlife Genetics Laboratory, it is first of its kind in the north-east region and first at the NGO level in the country, which was established in January 2008.
It has been offering support to various State Forest Departments of Northeast India in genetic monitoring of threatened mammalian species. Apart from its work in India, it has been offering consultancy and technical support to conservation genetic projects undertaken internationally, including countries like Indonesia and Bhutan.
The laboratory division is providing three main purposes i.e.,
- Build up a reference genetic database of the rich biodiversity of Northeast India
- Standardize DNA based techniques for the identification of species
- Identifying gender and individuals from various types of biological samples of wildlife origin.
At present, the division is following facilities in the laboratory that include
- DNA extraction facility for low quality and trace amounts of biological samples
- Electrophoresis and general solvent handling facility
- Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) facility
- Population genetic data analysis facility
- Undertaking priority population genetic research to answer pressing wildlife management questions.