Research Highlights | Published:

Conservation genetics

Leopard-skin origins traced

Nature volume 515, page 315 (20 November 2014) | Download Citation

Image: John T.L./Alamy

DNA analysis can reveal the origins of products from endangered species, which could help to curb illegal trade.

Such goods are often seized far from their origins, making it hard to know where to focus enforcement. Samrat Mondol of the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India, and his colleagues designed a DNA test that enabled them to trace the geographic origins of 40 seized leopard pelts (from Panthera pardus; pictured) to within a few hundred kilometres. They compared DNA from the pelts to that from blood and faecal samples taken from 173 leopards, focusing on gene variants found in certain locations in India. Very few of the skins were local to their seizure point. Central India appears to be a leopard poaching hotspot.

The technique could easily be used for other traded species, the authors say.

Conserv. Biol. (2014)

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