Application of STR markers in wildlife forensic casework involving Australian black-cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus spp.)
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Parrots and cockatoos are highly prized aviary birds and the demands for such species has fuelled theirillegal trade and harvest from the wild. Here we report on three forensic case studies involving blackcockatoos(Calyptorhynchus spp.) endemic to Australia. These cases involve suspected poaching andillegal killing of endangered red- and white-tailed black-cockatoos. Through the prior development of 20polymorphic microsatellite loci and population databases for white- and red-tailed black-cockatoos, thetools are available to conduct high-resolution paternity and individual identity testing. In one case, wematched a red-tailed black-cockatoo nestling to a tree hollow from which it was poached through the useof DNA from eggshell recovered from the nest. For the second case, we utilized our provenancepopulation database (nest sites), and identified the kinship and geographic origin of a white-tailed blackcockatoo,which was illegally harvested from the wild. The third case determined the number individualwhite-tailed black-cockatoos allegedly shot at a fruit grower’s orchard from body part remains. Thesegenetic investigations highlight the significance and statistical confidence of DNA profiling andassociated databases for endangered taxa, such as exotic birds. Our cockatoo population databases arethe first of their kind in Australia, and demonstrate the efficacy of such approaches to identify such illegalactivity. With a robust set of genetic markers and methodologies in place, we aim to broaden ourpopulation databases to include other cockatoo species of conservation concern.
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