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How Wales is leading the world in fight against the endangered species black market

A pioneering scientist who helped Wales become the first country in the world to DNA barcode all its flowering plants has joined an international fight to halt illegal trafficking of endangered species.

Dr Natasha de Vere, Head of Science at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, is currently based in Kenya where she is teaching DNA barcoding techniques to the country's top scientists.

The aim of her work is to provide Kenyan investigators with the tools to identify species from tiny samples in the pursuit of prosecution against wildlife criminals.

Dr de Vere said: "Illegal poaching and international trafficking in endangered species ranks among the largest of crimes, representing tens of billions of dollars per year.

"Our part in this global effort is to visit six partner countries – starting in Nairobi – and pass on our barcoding skills."

She added: "Much of all the illegally smuggled contraband worldwide is plant material and special skills are needed to tell whether someone is passing off one substance as another, whether a substance is legal or if it is from a source that is rare and/or endangered."

In 2012 the National Botanic Garden's head of conservation and research led a project which created a reference database of DNA barcodes based on the 1,143 native flowering plants and conifers of Wales, assembling over 5,700 DNA barcodes in the process.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014