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Keywords:

  • forensic science;
  • wildlife forensics;
  • snake venom;
  • species identification;
  • mitochondrial DNA;
  • cytochrome b

Abstract:  Illegal trade in snake parts has increased enormously. In spite of strict protection under wildlife act, a large number of snakes are being killed ruthlessly in India for venom and skin. Here, an interesting case involving confiscation of crystallized dried snake venom and subsequent DNA-based species identification is reported. The analysis using the universal primers for cytochrome b region of the mitochondrial DNA revealed that the venom was extracted from an Indian cobra (Naja naja). On the basis of this report, the forwarding authority booked a case in the court of law against the accused for illegal hunting of an endangered venomous snake and smuggling of snake venom. This approach thus has immense potential for rapid identification of snake species facing endangerment because of illegal trade. This is also the first report of DNA isolation from dried snake venom for species identification.