12/12/2016 in Conservation
Above: WildGenes Team with Dr Mark Auliya (second from left), Norbert Porta (sound), Aris Bibudis (camera) and director Andreas Ewels (back row).
Rather than using a screen to study vast quantities of genetic data, the RZSS WildGenes laboratory will instead soon be appearing on one …
A few weeks ago RZSS and the WildGenes team welcomed a ZDF (TV broadcaster) film crew into the laboratory. Director Andreas Ewels has been working with Dr Mark Auliya (Helmholtz Institute UFZ) to make a second documentary about the illegal trade in reptile skins from South East Asia. The crew were here to film our work in the laboratory as a demonstration within the documentary of how science can help tackle illegal trade.
Reticulated python skins are popularly traded for use in the high-end fashion industry, as well as the production of luxury goods. In both cases, skins may be sourced either from specimens reared in captivity or from those caught directly in the wild. As the impact of removing individuals from the wild is not thoroughly understood, trade of the reptile skins is regulated by CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora), and different countries are subject to different quota regulations. However, despite monitoring efforts there continues to be discrepancies in the number of skins reported on permits and doubt surrounding their origin.
The WildGenes lab have been working with Dr Auliya for the past two years, to develop DNA tools that could be used to help identify the geographic origin of a python skin sample. This information could help to confirm whether the information provided on shipment documents is correct and better regulate the impacts of the harvest on wild populations.
If you would like to learn more about this topic, you can watch a documentary previously made by ZDF about the work of Dr Auliya, via the following link: https://www.zdf.de/dokumentation/planet-e/planet-e-the-reptile-mafia-102.html
I look forward to sharing further details about where and when the documentary will be available in the coming months.
Dr Gill Murray-Dickson
RZSS Conservation Geneticist