In the summer of 2008, Jay Vavra and a group of High Tech High students traveled to Tanzania on a safari with a purpose—to combat the African Bushmeat Crisis, the illegal trade of meat from protected species, usually disguised as meat from a lawful origin.
Over the course of three years, students in Dr. Vavra’s biotechnology course studied the bushmeat trade and conservation forensics. They developed and practiced ways of identifying species via DNA barcoding, a technique they hope will aid scientists, environmental groups, and prosecutors in tracing illegal bushmeat back to its localized animal populations. While in Tanzania, the HTH team’s focus shifted from animals to people; they filmed and interviewed tribesmen and park officials talking about their lives and how poaching affected them. They presented their work to scientists and began an exchange of ideas for combating the crisis and developing education programs in East Africa and the United States. They returned home with hours of documentary footage and a greater understanding of wildlife conservation practices, the effects of illegal hunting on biodiversity, and the challenges being faced by those hoping to prosecute poachers.
To learn more about the African Bushmeat Project and the Tanzania expedition, visit Jay Vavra’s digital portfolio: http://hthbiotech.sandiegostc.org