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Illegal hunting cases detected with molecular forensics in Brazil

Alexandra Sanches1*, Paola M Tokumoto1, Wellington AM Peres2, Fernando L Nunes3, Mariana ST Gotardi1, Carolina S Carvalho1, Cristiane Pelizzon1, Tamissa G Godoi1 and Mauro Galetti1

Author Affiliations

1 Departamento de Ecologia, UNESP, CP 199, CEP 13506–900, Rio Claro, SP, Brazil

2 Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (IBAMA), CEP 78640–000, Canarana, MT, Brazil

3 Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (IBAMA), CEP 79002–380, Campo Grande, MS, Brazil

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Investigative Genetics 2012, 3:17  doi:10.1186/2041-2223-3-17

Published: 3 August 2012



Illegal hunting is one of the major threats to vertebrate populations in tropical regions. This unsustainable practice has serious consequences not only for the target populations, but also for the dynamics and structure of tropical ecosystems. Generally, in cases of suspected illegal hunting, the only evidence available is pieces of meat, skin or bone. In these cases, species identification can only be reliably determined using molecular technologies. Here, we reported an investigative study of three cases of suspected wildlife poaching in which molecular biology techniques were employed to identify the hunted species from remains of meat.


By applying cytochrome b (cyt-b) and cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) molecular markers, the suspected illegal poaching was confirmed by the identification of three wild species, capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris), Chaco Chachalaca (Ortalis canicollis) and Pampas deer (Ozotoceros bezoarticus). In Brazil, hunting is a criminal offense, and based on this evidence, the defendants were found guilty and punished with fines; they may still be sentenced to prison for a period of 6 to 12 months.


The genetic analysis used in this investigative study was suitable to diagnose the species killed and solve these criminal investigations. Molecular forensic techniques can therefore provide an important tool that enables local law enforcement agencies to apprehend illegal poachers.

Species identification; mtDNA; Wildlife forensics; Bush meat; Poaching; Neotropical region