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Barcodes to save wildlife

Spread across more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia’s dense tropical rainforests boast some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world, from scaly pangolins to the endangered orangutan.

Published: 12th March 2018 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th March 2018 02:37 AM   |  A+A-

Spread across more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia’s dense tropical rainforests boast some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world, from scaly pangolins to the endangered orangutan. This means that the nation is also at the frontline of an illicit global trade worth as much as $23 billion a year

Mapping criminal networks  
To keep pace with these vast trafficking groups, activists are now deploying the kind of technology once reserved for combating drug cartels and crime lords, according to AFP. For instance, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which works with Indonesian authorities to halt wildlife crime, uses similar computer software to map criminal networks and extract data from seized electronic devices

Indonesia’s battle against an illicit trade

Conservation group International Animal Rescue Indonesia (IAR) is examining crime scene evidence with the help of DNA barcoding—a taxonomic method that relies on short genetic sequences to identify species

Tissue samples from confiscated animals can be cross-referenced with a database of stored genetic codes, helping to unambiguously differentiate between species and sub-species—not all of which may be endangered. For instance, IAR is building a barcode database for different species of slow loris, a cute but venomous primate being hunted to extinction for use in traditional Chinese medicine

Swipe and click

Despite a raft of laws aimed at protecting Indonesia’s wildlife, forest rangers and police are under-resourced, experts say. This is a gap that the Freeland Foundation wanted to plug when it developed its smartphone identification app WildScan

Officials and members of the public can swipe and click through questions and photos to determine whether they have a protected species in front of them. If it turns out they do, they can then photograph and report it to authorities



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