A review: Forensic DNA technology to meet the stock theft challenges in South Africa

Author: Zwane A.A., E. van Marle-Köster, B.J. Greyling & N. Mapholi
Year: 2013
Issue: 1
Volume: 6
Page: 36 - 47

Stock theft, one of South Africa’s most persistent crimes, is one of the factors that pose a serious threat to food security and biosecurity. It impacts negatively on animal production in South Africa and represents a risk to animal health programs, affecting both the commercial sector and emerging farmers. Rural farmers, with no or limited resources, are often more severely affected due to the impact it has on their livelihood. Nationally, 377 114 animals (cattle, goats and sheep) to the value of more than R1 billion were reported stolen between 2006 and 2010. A major obstacle, central to the prosecution of stock thieves, is the positive identification and proof of ownership of livestock. Conventional identification methods such as brand-marking and ear-tagging, although serving as a deterrent, can easily be altered and are also often not individual specific. DNA, however, is an irrefutable means of identification of an individual, and can be used to trace the lawful owner of an animal in the presence of a reference sample. DNA profiling of exhibits that originate from forensic stock theft cases is routinely used to link suspects to either a crime scene or the crime itself. A huge challenge, however in animal forensics is the nature of samples submitted for DNA analysis. Samples are often aged or degraded, resulting in a compromised efficiency of using DNA profiling in forensics cases. This paper is aimed at reviewing the use of DNA technology as a tool address the challenge of stock theft and the constraints associated with the forensic analyses of DNA samples. Short tandem repeat (STR) markers are commonly used in forensic DNA analysis.  Developments in molecular genetics suggest that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are potential markers to use in forensics.


Keywords: DNA markers
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