Youths to be given opportunities to drive change for wildlife conservation as part of new network supported by NParks
The global youth network is a ground-up Singaporean initiative with backing from the National Parks Board of Singapore (NParks).
Those interested in wildlife conservation and prevention of the illegal wildlife trade can look forward to the formation of a new global youth network, announced the National Parks Board (NParks) on Monday (Nov 6). This will be done under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Launched by Singapore, the CITES Global Youth Network (CGYN) will see youths collectively establishing a vision and mission for the inaugural Global Youth Summit in 2025, which they will organise.
The initiative will be a platform for youths passionate about conservation to connect and be equipped with knowledge on the sustainable wildlife trade from an early stage. They can then go on to inform and influence conservation efforts.
The CGYN will onboard youths to the initiative at a later date. Currently, it is being kickstarted by two youths from the organising committee of the World Wildlife Day Regional Symposium, which saw over 400 youth participants over 2022 and 2023.
NParks, who have previously championed youth involvement in sustainability through outreach and education, will support the initiative. These previous efforts have taken the form of avenues like the Biodiversity Friends Forum (2017) and the Youth Stewards for Nature programme.
Mr Ryan Lee, NParks’ Group Director for the National Biodiversity Centre, Fort Canning and Istana, shared that the youths involved in CGYN may strengthen international cooperation as they move forward and take up the mantle of wildlife conservation.
NParks also shared in a press release that there was a record seizure of pangolin scales in 2019. There have also been recent local advancements in pangolin genotyping.
Researchers at NParks’ Centre for Wildlife Forensics (CWF) studied batches of seized pangolin scales, and a paper was later published on their findings. According to the paper, “pangolins… are one of the most highly trafficked animals… owing to [their] protective keratinous scales.”
The researchers at CWF were able to reduce contamination and sequence DNA more efficiently. This allowed for less expensive and time-consuming genotyping.
The process of genotyping allows researchers to find out where the scales were sourced from based on – you guessed it – their genes.
Through this, they were able to find out where those pangolins initially came from, as well as their species. From the record 2,346 pangolin scales analysed, it was discovered that there were newly exploited species of pangolin now falling victim to poaching due to the unfamiliar genetic signature.
This data was uploaded to the publicly accessible GenBank of the National Centre for Biotechnology Information. Researchers hope that the international community will use it to investigate and enforce the law against poachers and smugglers.
According to Mr Desmond Lee, Singapore’s Minister for National Development and Minister-in-Charge of Social Services Integration, “[the Global Youth Network and pangolin genotyping efforts] reinforce Singapore’s commitment to the global fight against illegal wildlife trade”.
In a Facebook post following the announcement of CGYN at the 77th CITES Standing Committee meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, he further shared that “Youths will be our future stewards for wildlife conservation and can play a part in stamping out illegal wildlife trade.”
More information on how youths can take part in the CITES Global Youth Network will be released at a later date.