R250 000 donated to strengthen DNA database in rhino war
Unite Against Poaching handed a cheque of R 250 000 to the Onderstepoort Veterinary Genetics Laboratory of the University of Pretoria on July 17, 2012. This donation will be used to create a Rhino DNA database. The RHoDIS project uses the latest DNA profiling techniques to combat poaching and strengthen rhino conservation by promoting scientific management of the rhino population.
DNA profiling enables law enforcement agencies to combat poaching by scientifically linking evidence such as rhino horn and equipment used in the removal of horns, to specific poaching events. This ensures greater success in identifying and convicting the criminals responsible.
Kevin Gillmer, chief executive of Unitrans Volkswagen and Audi division, said that this donation was supporting work being done at the coal face of counter poaching activities. Unitrans Volkswagen and Audi division is the main sponsor of Unite Against Poaching, donating R 500 out of their own profits for each vehicle sold at one of their branches. This latest donation is the second made to this project and has brought the total contribution by Unite Against Poaching to the RHoDIS to half a million rand.
Janssen Davies, national chairperson of the SANParks Honorary Rangers, called the current rhino poaching situation a tragedy. Fears are that more than 530 rhino may be poached before the end of 2012 if the current trend continues.
The SANParks Honorary Rangers is working closely with conservation agencies to combat poaching, by equipping, training and supporting conservation staff in the war against poachers. The Honorary Rangers are responsible to identify the key areas where Unite Against Poaching funds can most effectively be used.
Accepting the cheque Dr. Cindy Harper, the head of the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, stressed the importance of the donation. The number of poaching cases being investigated is placing severe strain on the laboratory's ability to quickly produce the necessary results. The donation will enable the laboratory to grow its capacity to investigate poaching incidents, and help to build the genetic database of living rhino which is now also incorporating animals in countries such as Kenya, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia.