The Philippines intensify efforts to combat illegal wildlife trade, organizers and participants of a three-day national conference on wildlife forensic held in Mandaue City in the middle of July have affirmed the need to enhance the country’s capacity in the application of science to pursue cases involving wildlife crime.
The conference, dubbed “Wildlife Forensics as a Tool in Combating Illegal Wildlife Trafficking,” co-organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR); so the USAID through the Protect Wildlife Project and the US Department of Interior through its Partnership for Biodiversity Conservation from July 16 to 18; also tackled the lucrative illegal wildlife trade; hence globally estimated to be worth $10 billion a year.
Instantly identify species
However, Fontanilla said law enforcement agents are hamper by their inability; so to accurately and instantly identify species, either because they are not train taxonomists themselves, or the animals they confiscate are no longer intact. In such case, he said DNA barcoding may come to play. DNA barcoding is define as a taxonomic method; so that uses one or more standardize short genetic markers in an organism’s DNA to identify it as belonging to a particular species.
“Through this method, unknown DNA samples are identify to register species base on comparison to a reference library,” said Barcode of Life Data System (BOLD System) in its web site. BOLD System is an informatics workbench aiding the acquisition, storage, analysis and publication of DNA barcode records. DNA barcoding makes use of a small section of DNA sequence from a standardized region of the genome to identify species, according to Fontanilla. “Through barcoding, unknown individuals be assign to species,” Fontanilla said.
The Philippines, he said, is doing its share in the global effort to build a wildlife database; so through DNA barcoding under the BOLDSystem. It is a member of the Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL). Launch in 2004, CBOL now includes more than 120 organizations from 45 nations. The consortium fosters the development of international research alliances need to build, over the next 20 years, a barcode library for all eukaryotic life.
Functioning wildlife forensic
Organizers of the event said a fully functioning wildlife forensic laboratory; which has become a necessity that will require an interagency collaboration. “There is recognition and it is timely for the need to strengthen; so the capacity of the government in wildlife forensics,” said Ma. Ronely D. Bisquera-Sheen, in-country coordinator of US Department of Interior; International Technical Assistance Program for the Partnership for Biodiversity Conservation.
Asis G. Perez, of Tanggol Kalikasan and former director of the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), said with such affirmation of the need to put up a forensic laboratory, a way forward is to determine the design or overall look, and what laboratory equipment is needed. “In preparation for the establishment of the laboratory; so the participants agree to conduct an assessment; also inventory of the different collection or specimens they have and catalog it.
Being a major driver of biodiversity loss, illegal trade in wildlife which experts; hence believe is no longer just about hunger and poverty but an economic crime requires, more often than not; so intensive investigation and the proper application of forensic science. Indeed, to effectively combat illegal wildlife trade and the more lucrative wildlife trafficking in a global scale; so wildlife forensics is an add tool and a must for wildlife law enforcement.