Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 180–194 | Cite as

DNA detective: a review of molecular approaches to wildlife forensics

  • E. A. AlacsEmail author
  • A. Georges
  • N. N. FitzSimmons
  • J. Robertson


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.


Wildlife crime Species identification Population assignment Sexing Individual identification Wildlife trade 



We are grateful to the Australian Federal Police and the University of Canberra for funding this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. A. Alacs
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. Georges
    • 1
  • N. N. FitzSimmons
    • 2
  • J. Robertson
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute for Applied Ecology and National Centre for Forensic StudiesUniversity of CanberraCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Institute for Applied EcologyUniversity of CanberraCanberraAustralia
  3. 3.Australian Federal PoliceCanberraAustralia

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