Researchers from the School of Biological Sciences are helping to provide scientific evidence to authorities to investigate and prosecute illegal trafficking of wildlife. Their work has included using DNA to identify species of baby eels traded through Hong Kong that are under threat, using DNA to match helmeted hornbill parts to their place of origin to help identify trade routes, using isotopes to determine if an animal is (legally) captive bred or illegally caught in the wild, and using data analysis to map the trade in pangolins.
The work is particularly important because Hong Kong is a major hub for wildlife trafficking, is the fourth most lucrative criminal trade in the world, generating about US$20 billion in illicit revenue.
Dr Caroline Dingle is a member of the Conservation Forensics Lab, which includes faculty and students from the School of Biological Sciences. The group works with partners including the Hong Kong government and local and international nongovernmental organisations, including the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, the World Wide Fund for Nature, and Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, who have a shared aim of protecting wildlife. The formation of the group was motivated by a common purpose. “We realised that the tools we use in our research could be used to assist with on going efforts to stem the flow of illegal wildlife through Hong Kong,” she said.