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The Himalayan Times National Daily, 31st October 2010

STRAnalyzerKATHMANDU: In an attempt to help identify dead bodies buried in mass graves, Nepal´s National Forensic Science Laboratory (NFSL) is likely to start

Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) testing using samples of bone. Till now, NFSL has been able to carry out DNA testing only on fresh blood. This sort of DNA testing is useful mainly to establish parental relationship in property disputes rather than in assisting police investigating serious crime. “We will very soon introduce the new technology of DNA testing that uses samples of bone,” Vinushobha Tuladhar, director of NFSL, told

With the advent of by-bone DNA profiling, NFSL is expected to assist not only the police in probing crime but also various human rights organizations with the identification of bodies buried in mass graves during the decade-long conflict. Identification of those killed in the conflict has been next to impossible so far owing to lack of by-bone DNA testing technology. It has prolonged the sorrow of people desperate to know the whereabouts of family members who went missing in the conflict.

Human rights organizations like the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had long been urging NFSL to begin by-bone testing for the benefit of families of the disappeared. “We are introducing the new technology chiefly upon the request of human rights organizations,” Tuladhar said. “It is expected to be instrumental in helping people find family members.”

Established in 1986, NFSL started DNA testing by blood samples about four years ago. ABI 310, a genetic analyzer set up at NFSL to carry out by-blood DNA testing, can be used for by-bone testing as well.According to Dinesh Kumar Jha, science official at NFSL, a new set of software and kits are sufficient for enhancement of the ABI 310 to start DNA testing with bone samples. “We already have an analyzing platform to carry out all sorts of DNA testing,” Jha says. “Adding some instruments will easily boost our capability in battling crime as well as human rights violations.”

The National Planning Commission has pledged assistance to NFSL to introduce the new technology, which is estimated to cost around five million rupees including purchase of a set of software and the kits required. “We will purchase these instruments soon after we collect the money,” Tuladhar said.According to the latest report published by ICRC, the whereabouts of 1,348 persons who went missing during the conflict have not been confirmed yet. The government and the insurgents, responsible for the disappearances, seem to be indifferent to the sorrow of the families affected.In the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the government and the Maoists had agreed to publicize details about all missing persons.The reliability of DNA testing by bone largely depends on how carefully samples are collected. The result of DNA tests will not be correct if bone samples are degraded. Bone degradation depends on the atmosphere at the places where the samples are collected.

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