Scientists from the Czech Institute of Criminalistics have launched a five-year project to develop ways of identifying those present at crime scenes using 'non-human genetics' including plant and animal DNA.
Plant and animal genetics
could offer new crime clues
The research is expected to provide assistance in cases involving animal smuggling, poaching and drug trafficking, but it is also expected to be of benefit in a wider range of investigations by allowing suspects to be placed at crime scenes from trace evidence on their clothes.
At present, animal and plant DNA found during an investigation can only be identified if a sufficiently large sample is available. The techniques are also expensive and not always reliable. It is also not possible for species that are closely related to be specifically identified.
The new method enables the individual identification of a particular animal or a plant and is a long-term process as the institute needs a sufficiently large database of DNA samples for each species. Ultimately this new method will be able to precisely identify even microscopic traces of particular plants and animals found at the scene of a crime.
The Institute, which is based in Prague, has started cooperating with foreign forensic laboratories within the project but wants to develop the research so that it applies to the local flora and fauna. The goal is that animal and plant genetic methods are gradually introduced into investigative practice during the course of the project.
The Czech Environmental Inspection, in particular the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) section dealing with the regulation of trading in protected species, has also welcomed the research. According to Pavla Rihova, from the CITES section: "Animal forensic genetics is a very progressive field. The research is extremely important and represents a big stride forward.”