Researchers from several institutions including the University of Colorado at Boulder have sequenced DNA "barcodes" for as many as 25 hunted wildlife species, providing information that can be used to better monitor the elusive trade of wildlife products, or bushmeat.
Identifying such DNA barcodes can help wildlife officials crack down on illegal bushmeat trafficking since many animal species are in sharp decline from illegal trade estimated to be worth $5 billion to $8 billion annually, said Andrew Martin, CU-Boulder associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and a study co-author. Barcodes also can help monitor legal harvest of tropical animals as researchers often use the composition of species in markets as an indication of the health of the wildlife community in forests.
"It's a really amazing study in which science brings together cultures and people living on separate continents faced with very different challenges," said Martin. "Barcoding is an essential tool for the identification of natural products and is becoming the technique of choice for monitoring wildlife trade. The ultimate goal is to have barcodes for every animal on the planet."
The DNA barcodes generated from the study have been added to an online, open-access repository called the Barcode of Life Data Systems and to the National Center for Biotechnology Information's GenBank library.
A paper of the findings was published in the September online edition of Conservation Genetics.
The DNA barcode system is valuable for its precision at the level of species, according to researchers. Without it, processed and prepared meats, hides and other goods are often unidentifiable once they reach the marketplace.
Enforcing wildlife laws such as those imposed by the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species or the U.S. Endangered Species Act will still be very difficult, or inefficient at best, said
|Contact: Andrew Martin|
University of Colorado at Boulder