Rapid, portable species identification to combat the illegal wildlife trade

Orie Shaw

Orie Shaw, University of Leicester, UK


The illegal wildlife trade (IWT) is estimated to be worth billions of dollars globally. Products derived from endangered animal species are either sold on the black market or illegally substituted for legitimate products. To combat this, law enforcement officials consistently highlight the need for a quick, on-the-spot test that can identify the species-of-origin of suspected IWT products at ports, markets, and border posts. Using nanopore sequencing, we have successfully identified European eel — the illegal trade in which has been described as ‘Europe’s own ivory trade’ —within 90 minutes using short, accurate, 'mini-barcodes' with a minimalist, portable method.


Orie Shaw is a PhD student at the Alec Jeffreys Forensic Genomics Unit, University of Leicester, utilising nanopore DNA sequencing to develop rapid, portable methods of species identification for use in the fight against wildlife crime.