DART Mass spectrometry as a potential tool for the differentiation of captive-bred and wild lion bones.

Peter Coals, Andrew Loveridge , Dominic Thekkedath Kurian, Vivienne L. Williams , David W. Macdonald, Rob Ogden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years lion bones have been legally traded internationally to Asian markets from captive-bred trade in wild lion bones. The existence of parallel captive and wild supplies of lion bone are a cause of law enforcement concern regarding the potential for the laundering of illegally sourced bones through legal trade, and present a problem for the assessment of the conservation impact of wild lion bone trade due to the difficulty of determining what market-share wild and captive-bred lion bones account for. Captive-bred and wild lion bone are visually indistinguishable and no reliable method currently exists for distinguishing them. We present a preliminary study that explores the use of DART mass spectrometry as a method to differentiate between captive-bred and wild lion bones. We find that DART is able to differentiate between a batch of captive-bred South African lion bone and a batch of wild lion bone and suggest that DART mass spectrometry shows strong potential as a tool for the regulation and investigation of lion bone trade. Further testing is needed to prove the suitability of this technique. Therefore, we suggest that further research focuses on testing the capability of DART to differentiate between contemporary wild and captive-bred lion bone originating from South Africa, and attempts to identify chemical markers in bone that can be used as indicators of captive-bred origin. sources in South Africa. There are also indications of increasing instances of illegal international
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2021


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