Friday, 6 March 2009

DNA tests underway to identify origin of smuggled orang-utans


DNA tests underway to identify origin of smuggled orang-utans

Recently, eleven smuggled orang-utans were seized by Thai officials in the southern province of Phuket. DNA tests are being conducted in a bid to help the apes be returned to their place of origin.

It was a chaotic scene as wildlife officials and veterinarians helped each other separate the orangutans from the cages for medical check-ups and blood tests for DNA identification.

The primates are seven times stronger than humans and more than five people were required to overpower just one orang-utan. Chloroform was needed for the bigger apes to reduce their pain and stress.

The DNA identification process will take at least one month to identify the orang-utans’ origins. It will help determine whether the apes are native to Indonesia’s Sumatra island or to Borneo, an island shared by Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia.

"Orang-utans are a protected animal in Indonesia and Malaysia. So it is illegal to import such an animal into Thailand,"said Pornchai Patumrattanathan, Chief of Khao Prathap Chang Wildlife Breeding Research Station.

In all, 12 orang-utans underwent DNA testing, the 11 dumped on Phuket by the smugglers in fear of being caught and 1 confiscated at a resort in southern Chumphon province.

"Once we have the orang-utans’ blood, we’ll extract their DNA. We’ll then multiply the DNA to decode the genetics. Then, we will find out whether or not they are of Borneo or Sumatra breed, so we can return them to their home of origin," Asso Prof Theerapol Sirinarumitr, a Forensic Veterinary Expert from Kasetsart University.

The confiscated orang-utans are between 4 to 8 years old. Normally, their life span is around 40 years in the wild and 50 years in captivity.

All the 12 orang-utans are currently at Khao Prathap Chang Wildlife Breeding Research Station in Thailand’s central province of Ratchaburi, until the case is concluded.

Features : Last Update : 08:31:11 6 March 2009 (GMT+7:00)