Wildlife DNA forensics - Bridging the gap between conservation genetics and law enforcement

Rob Ogden*, Nick Dawnay, Ross McEwing

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Wildlife DNA forensics is an applied field that has emerged from a synthesis of conservation genetic research and forensic genetic practice to meet the increasing need for investigative tools in wildlife law enforcement. This review describes the principal technologies and applications available to wildlife forensic geneticists, focussing on the four most common casework questions: What species is it? Where did it come from? Who did it come from? Was it captive bred? The conversion of established research tools into forensic identification systems is discussed, explaining the need for method validation at each stage of the analytical process, from sample collection to data analysis. The requirement for wildlife DNA forensic analysis to be performed under equivalent quality assurance standards to those of human forensic genetics is highlighted and approaches for the interpretation and presentation of DNA evidence are described. A perspective is provided on the potential for new genetic techniques and their future role in the increasingly complex fight to enforce the protection of endangered species. The review concludes with a number of recommendations for promoting a unified, rigorous approach to the development and application of wildlife DNA forensic techniques.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-195
Number of pages17
JournalEndangered Species Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2009


  • DNA profiling
  • Illegal trade
  • Legal
  • Poaching
  • Population assignment
  • Species identification
  • Wildlife crime


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