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Combatting the illegal wildlife trade

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Funding Years: 2021

Research Areas: Conservation

Regions: Africa

The illegal wildlife trade (IWT) is at least a $23 billion/year industry that is greatly reducing biodiversity, degrading ecosystem functions, threatening the world with emerging infectious diseases, and is closely linked to human trafficking, regional destabilization and terrorism. A key limitation in the fight against IWT is an inability to identify where animal materials are coming from and distinguish between legal and illegal products. This project will address this limitation by capitalizing on current genomics technology, new collaborations within the Stanford community and research strides already made to develop a tool to identify the geographic origin of confiscated materials inexpensively and in-country. To prototype this tool, the researchers will focus on African lions in partnership with two government agencies (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the South African National Biodiversity Institute) and three NGOs (African Parks, Wildlife Conservation Society and Panthera). Through these partnerships, the information generated will be used to identify and disrupt trafficking routes, strengthen law enforcement, and implement community engagement responses.

Learn more about the Realizing Environmental Innovation Program and other funded projects.

Principal Investigators:

Dmitri Petrov (Biology)

David Relman (Microbiology and Immunology)

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