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SCMP Article: How the illegal trade in endangered wild animals could be curbed by a law change in Hong Kong

November 12, 2020

A proposal by a legislator, law professor (Amanda Whitfort) and NGOs to tackle wildlife offences under the Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance could have a big impact. Instead of targeting the human mules who smuggle the animals, the trafficking syndicates and crime bosses who employ them would come under investigation.

Wired article: Forensic scientists are racing to save the pangolin from extinction

October 09, 2020

Pangolin scales are a prized ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine – and that has put the animal firmly on the endangered list. Isoscape tracking could help stop their slaughter at the source. Caroline Dingle, an evolutionary ecologist in HKU’s conservation forensics lab, explains that stable isotope analysis could be used to study whether animals are predominantly poached in a single country and shipped directly to Hong Kong, or whether they are hunted across the African continent and consolidated in a transit hub like Nigeria. “That information can be used to help understand where you need to send enforcement,” she says.

China Dialogue Article: Giving wildlife a voice in Hong Kong’s courts

July 16, 2020

Law professor Amanda Whitfort has introduced ‘victim impact statements’ for trafficked species to push for tougher prosecution of wildlife crimes. Dr Caroline Dingle from the HKU Conservation Forensics Lab has also joined the project and is adding forensics expertise to the data.

SCMP article: New method to combat illegal wildlife trade reveals whether animals were raised in captivity or captured from the wild

July 08, 2020

It is difficult to prove a wildlife crime because smugglers, traders and producers can camouflage the origin of their cargos, disguise endangered species as legally tradeable ones, “launder” animals that require permits, and mislabel manufactured products. But Dingle and other scientists at the Conservation Forensics Laboratory have combined their individual areas of expertise to create methods and tools that can be used by the authorities to unravel this complex web.

SCMP article: Shark fin sold in Hong Kong contains dangerous levels of mercury, study finds

June 10, 2020

The research fills an important gap in highlighting that shark is a dangerous choice for human consumption, says David Baker, assistant professor at the Swire Institute of Marine Science, part of the University of Hong Kong’s School of Biological Sciences. “Irrespective of the catastrophic loss of sharks due to over-harvesting for the fin trade, shark products should be avoided out of concern for one’s personal health,” said Baker, who is not affiliated with the FIU study.

WWF Feature Story: Illegally imported, critically endangered

June 08, 2020

The critically endangered European eel (Anguilla anguilla) comprises 45% of eel products available on Hong Kong supermarket shelves – despite the fact that no imports have been declared for two years – according to a recent DNA study by the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

Sustainable Asia Podcast: Can COVID19 save the Pangolins?

May 18, 2020

HKU Associate Professor Tim Bonebrake and Astrid Andersson, founder of Hong Kong for Pangolins, give their inputs on how COVID19 emerged from animals and what effect this may have on wildlife trade in the future.

BBC Article: Illicit wildlife products 'slipping through the net'

March 03, 2020

A study has called into question the effectiveness of measures to clamp down on the illegal wildlife trade. DNA testing of eel products available at 49 retail outlets in Hong Kong identified 45% as European eel. Of 13 brands tested, nine were found to contain the critically endangered species. They were labelled as "eel". University of Hong Kong scientists say their research, published in the journal Science Advances, raises urgent concerns about the enforcement of international Cites trade regulations. Lead researcher Dr David Baker said Cites must be supported by strong enforcement efforts of illegal smuggling.

National Geographic Article: More Chinese push to end wildlife markets as WHO declares coronavirus emergency

January 29, 2020

The spread of a deadly strain of coronavirus has thrust China’s live wild animal trade into the spotlight. On January 26, China announced a ban on its wild animal trade until the crisis is over. “For any ban to be effective, it will be important to get buy-in from citizens,” adds Caroline Dingle, an evolutionary biologist in the conservation forensics lab at Hong Kong University, who studies wildlife crime. “People need to believe that consuming wild animals is bad for them personally for any ban to work long-term.”

CNN article: Two Chinese nationals tried to smuggle live baby eels onto a plane

October 30, 2019

Two Chinese nationals have been given 10-month suspended prison sentences and fined over $8,000 each for attempting to smuggle live baby eels out of France. Japanese eels used to be the main source of eels in Asia, but stocks have collapsed due to overfishing, said David Baker, a marine science expert at Hong Kong University.

HKPF interview: Alexandra Andersson, protector of Hong Kong’s pangolins – cute, harmless, and endangered

March 02, 2018

Resident PhD student Alex Andersson - the founder of the conservation group Hong Kong for Pangolins - talks to HKPF about the issues surrounding the conservation and enforcement of the pangolin trade in Hong Kong - a transit state for these endangered species. Pangolins are traded for consumption and medicinal use in China and elsewhere.

SCMP article: How demand is driving critically endangered Helmeted Hornbill towards extinction

January 15, 2018

Once rare in the markets and abundant in the rainforests, the tables are turning for this Asia's largest hornbill species due to increased Chinese demand in the ornamental trade. This SCMP article highlights the main issues surrounding the illegal trade and includes the genetic research being undertaken here at HKU by Dr Caroline Dingle and PhD candidate Chloe Hatten to aid conservation practices and law enforcement to protect this critically endangered species. 

"Hippos in danger because of desire for their teeth"

October 08, 2017

It isn't only elephants that are suffering from humans' insatiable thirst for ivory. A new study notes hippopotamuses, already predicted by some to disappear within 100 years, may be dying at unexpected rates to fuel the trade of ivory ornaments made from hippo teeth.

BBC Future article "How to save the world's most trafficked mammal" with Dr Bonebrake and Astrid Andersson

April 19, 2017

David Robson from BBC Future interviews Dr Tim Bonebrake, Astrid Andersson and Cheng Wenda from the CCF lab on the issues of the illegal wildlife trade of the pangolin, and the billion-dollar criminal industry that threatens to push it to extinction.

TVB Pearl Report - Wildlife Woes w. Prof. Sadovy

March 26, 2017

Prof. Sadovy's investigations uncover illegal smuggling and lax enforcement over a CITES listed marine fish; the Napoleon Wrasse.

RTHK Radio 3 interview with Dr David Baker

January 18, 2017

Annalie Chow from RTHK Radio 3 interviews Dr David Baker on the issues of the illegal wildlife trade, and how we can use conservation forensics to tackle these issues. 

"Biologist reveals important role cities play in conservation of threatened species"

January 04, 2017

Articles from Science Daily and BBC news discuss Dr Luke Gibson's recent publication in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, about how introduced populations of the Critically Endangered Yellow-Crested Cockatoo into Hong Kong from their native ranges in Indonesia may provide hope for these threatened species. 

"Fishy business? Hong Kong supermarkets found to be selling mislabelled frozen seafood"

December 07, 2016

An article from the South China Morning Post discusses reports made by WWF on the mislabelling of seafood products in supermarkets around Hong Kong. DNA analyses of these seafood products were undertaken by our Conservation Forensics lab here at HKU.

"Another big predator in Southeast Asia faces extinction"

August 30, 2016

An article from The Guardian reports on research conducted by a team including Dr Gibson, on the conservation of the declining Indochinese Leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri) in Southeast Asia.

"Illegal eel: who is pilfering Europe's catch"

March 30, 2016

An article from The Guardian reports on a study that identifies a cargo package of endangered European Eels, led by Dr Baker and the rest of the forensics lab.

"Exposed: the illegal Hong Kong trade in endangered coral reef fish"

March 17, 2016

An article from the South China Morning Post writes on a report from TRAFFIC and Hong Kong Swire Institute of Marine Science (SWIMS), that discovered how the illegal trade of endangered Humphead Wrasse was common in Hong Kong markets, despite strict trade regulations.

"The true price of Hong Kong's insatiable appetite for seafood"

December 11, 2015

An article from the South China Morning Post reports on a study by Dr Sadovy, which highlights the problem with Hong Kong's unsustainable seafood consumption.

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JL Richards, V Sheng, WY Chung, CL Ying, ST Ng, Y Sadovy, D Baker (2020) Prevalence of critically endangered European eel (Anguilla anguilla) in Hong Kong supermarkets. Science Advances. 6 (10). (DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay0317)

A Whitfort (2019) Wildlife Crime and Animal Victims: Improving Access to Environmental Justice in Hong Kong, Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy, 22:3, 203-230. (DOI: 10.1080/13880292.2019.1677055)


A Andersson, H Tilley, W Lau, T Bonebrake, C Dingle (2019) Illuminating the legal wildlife trade. Conservation Biology, in review


A Andersson, L Gibson, DM Baker, S Wang, HN Leung, LM Chu, C Dingle (2019) Applying stable isotope analysis to detect laundering of yellow-crested cockatoos (Cacatua sulphurea) in wildlife trade, in prep


Y Sadovy de Mitcheson, A Andersson, A Hofford, CSW Law, LCY Hau, and D Pauly (2018)Out of control means off the menu: The case for ceasing consumption of luxury products from highly vulnerable species when international trade cannot be adequately controlled; shark fin as a case study. Marine Policy,​.



L Gibson, A Hofford, D Dudgeon, Y Song, Y Chen, DM Baker, & A Andersson. (2018). Hong Kong’s delayed ivory ban endangers African elephants. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 16(7), 370-380.


A Andersson, and Gibson, (2017). Missing teeth: Discordances in the trade of hippo ivory between Africa and Hong Kong. African Journal of Ecology, 00:1–9. (DOI:10.1111/aje.12441)



W Cheng, S Xing and TC Bonebrake, (2017). Recent Pangolin Seizures in China Reveal Priority Areas for Intervention. Conservation Letters. (DOI:10.1111/conl.12339)



L Gibson, DL Yong, (2017) Saving two birds with one stone: Solving the quandary of introduced, threatened species. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment,15(1): 35–41(DOI: 10.1002/fee.1449)



S Rostro-García, JF Kamler, E Ash, GR Clements, L Gibson, AJ Lynam, R McEwing, H Naing, S Paglia, (2016) Endangered leopards: range collapse of the Indochinese leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri) in Southeast Asia. Biological Conservation, 201: 293-300. (DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.07.001)



FM Stein, JCY Wong, V Sheng, CSW Law, B Schroder, DM Baker, (2016) First genetic evidence of illegal trade in endangered European eel (Anguilla anguilla) from Europe to Asia. Conservation Genetics Resources, 8 (4): 539-539. (DOI: 10.1007/s12686-016-0576-1)



Y Sadovy de Mitcheson et al. Wildlife Crime: Is Hong Kong Doing Enough? (see link for pdf) 



Y Sadovy de Mitcheson, (2016) Mainstreaming fish spawning aggregations into fishery management calls for a precautionary approach. BioScience, 66 (4): 295-306. (DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biw013)



ACJ Vincent, Y Sadovy de Mitcheson, SL Fowler, & S Lieberman, (2013) The role of CITES in the conservation of marine fishes subject to international trade. Fish and Fisheries, 15(4): 563-592. (DOI: 10.1111/faf.12035)



Y Sadovy de Mitcheson, MT Craig, AA Bertoncini, KE Carpenter, WL Cheung, JH Choat, AS Cornish, ST Fennessy, BP Ferreira, PC  Heemstra, M Liu, RF Myers, DA Pollard, KL Rhodes, LA Rocha, BC Russell, MA Samoilys, & J Sanciangco, (2013) Fishing groupers towards extinction: a global assessment of threats and extinction risks in a billion dollar fishery. Fish and Fisheries, 14(2):119-136. (DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-2979.2011.00455.x)



SM Cheung, D Dudgeon, (2006) Quantifying the Asian turtle crisis: market surveys in southern China, 2000–2003. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 16: 751-770. (DOI: 10.1002/aqc.803) 







 C Dingle, D Dudgeon, D Baker, T Bonebrake, YH Sung, W Cheng, S Xing, T Prigge, JL Richards, CER Webster, AA Andersson & V Sheng. "Reduction of Illegal Global Wildlife Trade through Novel Conservation Forensics Research". Faculty of Science, The University of Hong Kong, Faculty Knowledge Exchange Awards 2019.




A Whitfort "Wildlife Crime: Knowledge Transfer for Informed Sentencing in Greater China" The University of Hong Kong, Knowledge Exchange - Impact Project Scheme 2020-21, HK$150,000. This ongoing and interdisciplinary project involves a collaboration between Associate Professor Amanda Whitfort, Faculty of Law, Dr Caroline Dingle, School of Biological Sciences and Dr Gary Ades, Head of Fauna, Kadoorie Farm and Botanical Garden, in producing a series of wildlife crime impact reports (similar to victim impact statements for endangered species) to aid the Agricultural Fisheries and Conservation Department, Customs and Excise Department and the Department of Justice in effectively prosecuting, and the judiciary in sentencing wildlife crime, under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (Cap 170) and the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance (Cap 586). ​

PC Dufour, C Dingle, YH Sung & TC Bonebrake “Hong Kong as a hub and home for declining Tokay geckos: analysis of genetic diversity” Ocean Park Conservation Fund 2020. HK$202,000

TC Bonebrake "An integrated approach to conservation forensics: reducing wildlife trade globally through technology, analytics and education" The University of Hong Kong, Knowledge Exchange - Impact Project Scheme, $100,000 HKD

C Dingle, CER Hatten, J Lee, A Jain, R Kaur & Y Hadiprakarsa "Developing a forensic toolkit to aid in the conservation of the Helmeted Hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil)" The National Geographic Society RFP - Reducing Demand for Illegal Wildlife, $30,000 USD

C Dingle & CER Hatten "Development of a lab-based toolkit to aid the conservation and enforcement of the critically endangered Helmeted Hornbill, Rhinoplax vigil" Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong, $170,000 HKD

 L Gibson & C Dingle "Identifying Ecological Relationships of  Cacatua sulphurea to aid conservation in its native and introduced ranges", Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong, $182,900 HKD

 L Gibson, TC Bonebrake, DM Baker, YJ Sadovy, D Dudgeon, C Dingle "Seed Funding for Conservation Forensics in the School of Biological Sciences @ HKU" The University of Hong Kong, School of Biological Sciences, $125,000 HKD


School of Biological Sciences

Kadoorie Biological Sciences Building

The University of Hong Kong

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