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Wildlife trade is a major threat to biodiversity. This is especially true in Southeast Asia where demand is very high and trade continues despite increased efforts to control illegal activities. We need a better understanding of the complexity of wildlife trade networks to be able to identify management strategies that can mitigate this threat.
Since 2013, as part of a long-term strategy to inform and improve conservation action in the country, we are collaborating with the Central Institute for Natural Resources and the Environmental Studies (CRES) at Vietnam National University to gather data and fill knowledge gaps on species targeted by the trade, such as slow lorises and other trade-targeted species.
We are using DNA barcoding and other forensic tools to correctly identify the species of confiscated animal parts, skins or products involved in the trade. This method also helps to clarify the pattern and scale of trade by tracing the geographic origin of traded animals. Combining DNA barcoding with morphological, anthropological, and socio-economic data, our research contributes to an improved understanding of the complexity of wildlife trade, hotspots of trade activities, and species under critical pressure.
Another key component of our approach is to strengthen the capacity of researchers and managers in the region to use forensic tools and develop interdisciplinary research skills to facilitate long-term studies of wildlife trade in Southeast Asia.
The CBC's research on wildlife trade in Vietnam is led by CBC Assistant Director for Research and Strategic Planning, Dr. Mary Blair, and made possible through funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF).