New Research to Track Illegal Trafficking of Animals

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Scientists at University of New South Wales developed a revolutionary approach by checking chemical markers in the body, to determine the illegal trafficking of animals.

Scientists from UNSW collaborated with Taronga Conservation Society Australia, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), and Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) to work on a project related to track the illegal trafficking of animals. The researchers developed a unique approach that examines the chemical markers from the keratin present in the body parts such as hair, feathers, quills, and others of the animals. The work was published in the journal Scientific Reports on October 2018.

Using ANSTO Feather Map Project, the scientists developed a new technique that identifies animals based on the diet that they consume. The chemical marker identifies with almost 96 percent accuracy in the keratin of the animal parts and classifies whether the animal has been eating a natural, wild diet or a captive diet. This technology enables to identify the animals whether it is captive-bred or wild, which might help in curbing the illegally trafficking practices around the world.

Dr. Kate Brandis, researcher at the UNSW Science, founder of the Australian Feather Map, and lead author of the study, said: “The challenge now was how best to put this science in the hands of law enforcement. Analysis of quill, feather, and scale samples from a range of animals needs to be done if we’re really going to make the most of this discovery.”

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Cynthia Carrier is a graduate of Texas A&M, where she played volleyball and annoyed a lot of professors. Now as Plains Gazette's entertainment and Lifestyle Editor, she enjoys writing about delicious BBQ, outrageous style trends and all things Texas.