The new secret weapon in the anti-poaching war: DNA Barcoding

Researchers at the American Museum of Natural History in New York have discovered what they term the “Barcode of Life” which is a genetic sequence that is specific to each individual species. By analyzing this “Barcode of Life,” they can determine if the skin is from an endangered animal or one that’s allowed to be hunted.

George Amato, an evolutionary biologist who helps oversee the DNA library, inspects a crocodile skin briefcase. Even after the skin has been processed, the bumps contain bits of bone the lab uses to extract DNA.

Julie Feinstein, collection manager of frozen tissue lab at AMNH, removes a rack of samples from one of the liquid nitrogen-cooled storage vats. She’s wearing special gloves so that, as she puts it, she doesn’t stay attached to the vat.

This system enables customs agents, and other regulatory agencies, to send samples of seized products to the lab in order to have them tested to see whether the produces has a from an endangered species or not.    The Museum has over 70,000 samples and growing,  there is a “constant influx” of samples so the number constantly grow.

Leather products found at a crafts market in Brazzaville, Congo. They may have originated from Mali, as similar products were found in the shop of Malian leather workers who illegally ship in Nile crocodile and other skins to Congo.

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