Kenyan crime fighters will soon have the tools to solve hippo whodunits, meerkat murders and other wildlife crimes. The American Museum of Natural History recently donated $178,000 to Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) for the creation of a forensic and genetic laboratory.
The goal is to create a state-of-the-art lab that will serve as a regional center for analysis of evidence, such as animal DNA, in criminal cases. The lab will also help biologists and conservationists monitor genetic diversity in wildlife populations.
"Once complete, the forensics and molecular biology laboratory is expected to enhance studies in population genetics and reduce poaching activities by providing credible prosecutorial evidence in court," KWS said in a press statement.
The KWS has an elephant-sized task on their hands fighting crime on the savannah. The KWS manages approximately eight percent of the total landmass of Kenya, including 55 national parks, reserves and sanctuaries, as well as numerous marine reserves and field stations. They also provide tourism services and community education.
The American Museum of Natural History's Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics donated the funds for the lab and pledged to support the KWS with training, lab equipment, and collaborative research.
Poaching of African game has increased in recent years. Increasing affluence in Asia, coupled with belief in folk medicine, has fueled much of the illegal hunting. For example, many poached rhino horns are sold as aphrodisiacs in China and Vietnam, although no link between rhino horn and sexual virility has even been found. Rhino horn is mostly keratin, the same substance as in human hair and fingernails. If rhino horn was truly a libido booster, it would stand to reason that nail-biters would be sexual dynamos.
Elephant killed By poachers, Voi area, Kenya (Ina96, Wikimedia Commons)
Ranger from the Kenya Wildlife Service, KWS, in Ngong Hills (Rotsee2, Wikimedia Commons)