Barcodes that are used is DNA Coding of animals and plant species.

DNA Barcodes

DNA barcodes are being used to protect our loved and endangered animals around the world every day in such wonderful ways, animals such as the Rhinoceros, Orangutan and tigers and they have been doing this for more than ten years now. Endangered animals are classified as endangered when there are less than 2500 mature individuals alive at one time or when a species population declines by at least 20 percent within five years or two generations.

What is DNA barcoding you may ask? DNA barcoding is when a miniscule amount of DNA is taken from the endangered species and recorded on an international database which holds all the DNA of wildlife. For animal identification, the most broadly used barcodes marker is mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI), which is highly conserved across species employing oxidative phosphorylation for metabolism. How does this help the worlds endangered species? We at hold this dear to our heart, let us have a brief look at how this is done.

As we are all well aware Poaching in Africa has become a terrible and massive problem. We have hundreds of rangers who make it their life’s work to protect these amazing creatures, but the battle is sadly never over. The reasons why animals are poached in such large numbers can be read about in more details on National Geographic Poaching Animals Article.

DNA Barcodes
In Tanzania, a team of veterinarians are on a covert mission to protect the black rhinoceros from poaching. | National Geographic/Youtube

An anti-poaching team normally consists of four rangers plus dogs, a tracker, two flankers and a controller. Unfortunately, more often than not when on patrol these teams will come across a carcass of an animal and are unable to decipher what type of animal it is due to extensive decomposition. This is where DNA barcodes come into play. The rangers will remove a sample of the carcass and be able to compare it to the wildlife database which has barcoded DNA samples loaded to decipher the species of the animal.

The same goes for confiscated animal products from suspected poachers, they now have a full-proof way in which they can prove the meat which is used for consumption or fin, bone, tissue, organs etc which are mainly used for traditional medicine, belongs to endangered and protected animal species and are able to successfully convict the poachers. This is a topic that is very close to our heart and we are sure many worldwide as well and it is with great relief that we have a way in which to try and get a tighter grip of this terrible act of crime which has been reported at forty-three of the world heritage sites.

Land plant species are also barcoded. As we are all striving to live a healthier more natural lifestyle the usage of herbal medication and supplements has increased. They are used within ecology and nature conservation to try and eliminate counterfeit herbal products.

But this has proven to be challenging and they have now been able to research that by using DNA-mini barcodes it has better results as mini barcodes use a smaller length of DNA than regular DNA barcodes and Mini barcodes, generally ≤200 bp, can be amplified more rapidly than regular barcodes. This also helps when the DNA of the plant species has been damaged in the manufacturing process of the herbal medication and only a small amount is available for analysis.

We all know that in today’s world we have to be very careful when it comes to using herbal medication, we have to research and be sure of the ingredients that are placed into these products to ensure that we are giving our bodies the best that we can without ingesting unknown goods.

DNA Barcodes

Barcodes have also been known to be used with preventing tree species being eliminated and forests being depleted by illegal logging. These forests provide the Earth with much-needed oxygen in order to try and slow down the drastic climate change that we are experiencing. An example of this is in Liberia where two thirds of Africa’s remaining Rain Forest are situated. Hardwood is smuggled out of these forests to other countries, mainly overseas and this is threatening the existence of these trees. Barcodes have been introduced to help prevent this.

Every piece of Hardwood that is now brought into Europe is required to be tagged with barcodes in order to prove that it has been legally removed, as you also are required to have a permit to harvest wood. Having these trees barcoded with barcodes aids in a system where once a tree is cut down, it is recorded on a database that is live, eliminating the need for manual paperwork which can be time-consuming and allow for errors, and the tree stump is then tagged with a new code, as well as the logs that are produced from the harvested tree.

This system is now being used worldwide in Rain Forest everywhere. The barcodes are printed on sustainable hard plastic tags which are then hammered into the trees. Although you still get people who take a chance and cut down these trees, there is not much they can do with them afterwards as moving them through ports or across borders is not an option due to them not having permits that match with the barcodes. This process is spreading to other countries and we can only hope that it will develop as time goes on and become stricter to completely eradicate illegal logging and of course poaching.

Having species barcoded can be quite complex but the science behind it is phenomenal if you do your research and the changes that it can make to protecting endangered animals especially in South Africa, as well as deforestation of oxygen-producing trees, is promising.

We hope this article has been interesting, informative, and uplifting for you as much as it has been for us. We strive to bring you up to date and informative articles on the many ways in which our world has brought barcodes into assisting the population, humans, animals, and plant life.


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