News Ticker

Farm them to save them

The usual objection to farming endangered wildlife for the pet trade is that it’s too hard to then tell the difference between legal farmed animals and illegally poached ones.

Stephen Franks and Digby Livingston have a potential solution. Sequence the DNA of the initial stock for farmed supply. Direct descendants can be identified by DNA; poached ones wouldn’t match.
How would the DNA enforcement mechanism work? New Zealand’s ESR can DNA profile an animal, store its genetic fingerprint and from that fingerprint identify related individuals or exclude those unrelated.
The law can provide that only offspring of identified breeding stock can be sold or owned. They would have certified

 Our valuable wildlife are the likes of skinks and geckos. Our ruthless armed poachers are harmless looking operators lurking 
among the backpackers. 

A poacher trying to sell a wild animal, and the buyer, face the risk of a genetic fingerprint test for around $50. Instead of having to prove all the circumstances of illegal taking, the law can make simple possession of an uncertified animal extremely expensive and risky.
That should be the case under current law, but the law creates artificial scarcity that also hikes the returns from possession. The new approach deals with the incentives.
There is other recent science to back up the DNA info. We can double check from an animal’s tissue whether its diet shows it grew up in captivity or in the wild.
This approach need not be confined to rare breeds. Maori could once again routinely feast on farmed kereru, without risk to wild populations.

A great great idea.

See also prior posts on this theme over at Offsetting Behaviour.

About Eric Crampton (88 Articles)
I'm Head of Research with the New Zealand Initiative.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: