Barcode of Wildlife Project

Using DNA Barcoding to safeguard endangered species

Barcode of Wildlife Project

Using DNA Barcoding to safeguard endangered species

Poaching and trafficking of endangered species is no longer a petty crime that allows the most poverty-stricken individuals to survive. It’s become a global criminal enterprise, thanks to the skyrocketing prices for carved elephant ivory, exotic plants, pets and foods, and for enormous numbers of species with supposed medicinal value. Like other criminals, poachers and traffickers are trying to stay one step ahead of enforcement agencies by making it hard to identify the plants and animals they’ve stolen from nature: plucking the feathers from rare parrots, grinding rhino horn, lion bones and medicinal plants into powders, and butchering ‘bushmeat’ from bones and hide that are easy to identify.

All that remains is the DNA in many cases. Thanks to DNA barcoding, that’s enough to catch and convict them.

Our Ambitious Goal

A Global Impact Award from Google has challenged us to demonstrate how DNA technology can be transferred to developing countries and implemented in a sustainable way. We have just a few years to accomplish this goal. In order to do this, we have to have the right formula.

The right people...

We’ve brought together research biologists, park wardens, police, prosecutors and others responsible for protecting wildlife.

The right resources...

We’re providing our partners with training, supplies, technical support, internet connectivity and guidance.

The right labs...

All the work is being done in their countries, not in our labs.

The right time...

The future of their wildlife is in their hands.

$3 million

Google's Global Impact Award Programs has granted US$3 million to the Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL), Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., for a pilot project to demonstrate the value of DNA barcoding for investigating and prosecuting wildlife crime.

This pilot project will test the cost-effectiveness, scalability, and real-world impact of a DNA-based technology on the enforcement of species protection laws and treaties. We hope to institute DNA barcoding in developing countries by border inspectors, park rangers, and other regulatory officials to detect illegal wildlife trafficking.

Partner Countries

Just like the Human Genome Project, we can only succeed if specialists in different countries collaborate. Biodiversity research is a global enterprise, with specialists, museum specimens, databases, and laboratories distributed around the world. CBOL’s network is providing our partner countries with access to the resources they will need to protect their endangered species.

Shortly after DNA barcoding was proposed in 2003, CBOL was created with the goal of developing a global research community of DNA barcode researchers, institutions, and users. The CBOL Secretariat Office at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., has brought more than 200 member organizations in more than 50 countries together for conferences, workshops, and joint projects. Together they have generated hundreds of thousands of standardized data records that are available free for use to identify species by their DNA.

Learn more about the team and what they're currently up to on the CBOL page.

“The Barcode of Wildlife Project is demonstrating how the research we do at the National Museum of Natural History can have global impact.”

--Dr. Kirk R. Johnson, Director, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC