Program and Abstracts

Illegal Wildlife Trafficking: Attacking on All Fronts

 Venue: Adina Apartment Hotel Central, Sydney CBD (Lee Street, near Central Station)

Tentative program (and see below for bios and abstracts)

This program is subject to change

9.00am Welcome, General introduction. Ronda J Green and Simin Maleknia

9.15am Illegal Trafficking in Australia – a Zoological Industry Perspective. Al Mucci, General Manager Life Sciences, Dreamworld Corroboree

10.15am. An overview of wildlife trafficking problems in Australia, possible methods of tackling them and the role of wildlife tourism. Ronda J Green, Chair of Wildlife Tourism Australia

10.25am Morning Tea 

11.15am Working with QUOLLity Wildlife Detection Dogs in Australia: The benefits, limitations and what it really takes to be successful?!  Amanda Hancock, Director: Ecological Services & Wildlife Detection Dog Specialist 

11.40am Chemical and elemental profiling of wildlifeSimin Maleknia,  School of BEES, UNSW 

12.05am Developing a low cost and accurate DNA field-test kit to identify endangered species Natalie T Schmitt, Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, McMaster University.

12.30pm  Detecting and preventing wildlife trafficking in Malaysian airports. (interview on video) Mano Aramugam

12.40pm Lunch

1.45pm Lend your eyes to the wild: a campaign to disrupt illegal wildlife crime. Belinda Fairbrother, Wildlife Witness program, Taronga Zoological Gardens

2.15pm Round table discussion: What can we most effectively do to keep a watch on animals and plants being illegaly collected? (i.e.. preventing or recording illegal collection of wildlife or their parts in the wild or from captivity) 

2.45pm Afternoon tea

3.30pm. Round table discussion  What do we really need to do to detect and prevent wildlife and wildlife products being smuggled out of Australia? (i.e. detecting attempts to take wildlife or their parts out of the country, e.g. at airports and shipping ports)

4.15pm Final Plenary discussion.  Where to from here? (including insights from previous discussions, how to find not just the poachers but the leaders of the crime rings, and how to educate end-users)

5.00pm Close of workshop.


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Illegal Trafficking in Australia – a Zoological Industry Perspective. Al Mucci, General Manager Life Sciences, Dreamworld Corroboree

Al Mucci has been in the zoological industry for over 19 years and has held the position of General Manager of Life Sciences at Dreamworld for the past 11 years.  Al has broad based experience with a wide variety of animals which has included senior positions in non-government organisations, private and public institutions.   Al is a Director of the Dreamworld Wildlife Foundation (DWF), Save the Bilby Fund Inc., 21st Century Tiger/Zoological Society of London. Under Al’s leadership, DWF is the world’s largest contributor to tiger conservation.

Al is an invited member of the Biosecurity Queensland Ministerial Advisory Council and has been the President of the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA), Queensland Branch (ZAAQ). He has set up numerous initiatives in the preservation of Australian wildlife including driving force behind National Threatened Species Day activities across Australia including Brisbane CBD, lead in conservation initiatives of the koala locally in South East Queensland which included invited presenter for the Federal Koala Senate Enquiry. Al has been co-author to numerous conservation scientific papers due to his leadership in this area.

Al has been Chairman of D.G. Stead Foundation dedicated to the preservation of native Australian flora. During this time he led breeding programs with native flora such as Wirrimbirra White Waratah which was propagated for Gold Medal winners during the Sydney Olympic Games. He has been working with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community locally and across Australia for the past 11 years.  Under the leadership of Al, Dreamworld was the first leisure based attraction in Australia to launch a Reconciliation Action Plan. He dreamt up the Corroboree project and was successful in obtaining a grant from the Federal Government to integrate a current wildlife attraction into an authentic and credible Indigenous experience with wildlife. 53 individuals from 22 language groups were part of Dreamworld Corroboree. Dreamworld Corroboree won the Queensland Premier’s Reconciliation Award, 2014, QLD Northern Territory Cinematography Award for the Creation Story of the Gold Coast, National 2015 Cinematography Award for the Creation Story of the Gold Coast, World Media Festival Hamburg 2015, Gold – Tourism, Entertainment/Edutainment for the Creation Story of the Gold Coast, World Media Festival Hamburg 2015, Special Award – Best original music for the Creation Story of the Gold Coast.

Due to Al’s strong links with community and country (the people) he has been supported by local Yugambeh language group people of the Gold Coast to assist with Indigenous engagement for the GC2018 Commonwealth Games. This is a part time basis role supported by Dreamworld.


Working with QUOLLity Wildlife Detection Dogs in Australia: The benefits, limitations and what it really takes to be successful?! The urgent need for WDD application to future management of Wildlife Trafficking in Australia, and how Citizen Science combined with this innovative methodology, may also be the future hope for saving further species from extinction.  Amanda L Hancock, Saddlers Springs Education Centre Pty Ltd – QUOLLity Wildlife Detection Dogs, Cooran, QUEENSLAND, Australia.  E: [email protected] 

National and International Scientists now recognise the use of wildlife detection dog (WDD) methodology should be used as an advancement to current survey methodology in Australia, if threatened and elusive species, such as the northern quoll, are to be protected.This presentation will use the northern quoll Dasyurus hallucatus as a case study example.  Scientific analysis by Amanda Hancock in collaboration with both Australian Wildlife Conservancy and The University of Qld, highlighted superior accuracy and speed of WDD compared to standard fauna survey methodologies.  Scientists concluded efficacy of WDD as a stand-alone method or to help accelerate accuracy and cost efficiency of standard survey methods.Critically there are pre-requisites:  Amanda will explain the benefits, limitations and what it really takes to have a successful QUOLLity Wildlife detection dog team that will ensure ethical, effective and scientifically robust methods.Discussion of the potential application of WDD for species recovery programs, pest management, wildlife health (reproductive and disease) and wildlife forensics with examples applied overseas in both captive and free-ranging populations.Detection dog methodology has been implemented successfully overseas in wildlife and animal forensic cases and wildlife trafficking.  Examples will be provided with discussion on the potential development of WDD specific to wildlife trafficking management in Australia.Citizen Science is becoming a precious resource in conservation efforts, where the importance of the environment has diminished and funding and resources are poor.  How the combination of Citizen Science and WDD Methodology could fill the gap and may also be the hope of saving our species.There is an urgent need to advance wildlife detection methods in Australia if we are to save our most vulnerable and elusive native species.  And with the growth in poaching of wildlife, this need becomes more urgent for those working on the front lines of conservation, with concern it will not be long before ‘every man and his dog’ is using WDD to easily locate these species and further fuel wildlife trafficking.  

Amanda Hancock has over 17 years’ experience in wildlife ecology/biology, logistics and delivery of remote area ecological field surveys.  Her roles have included Resource Ranger with Queensland Parks and Wildlife/NPRSR, Field Officer with Natural Resources & Water, Ecologist with Boobook Consultancy and self-employed as Director of Ecological Services & Wildlife Detection Dog Specialist with ‘QUOLLity Wildlife Detection Dogs & Saddler Springs Education Centre Pty Ltd’.  Amanda has spent the last 7 years as an Independent wildlife researcher and consultant focused on the training, handling and scientific accuracy testing of wildlife detection dogs for endangered species recovery and pest animal programs in Australia.  A key focus of her research and field work has been on the detection of both northern and spotted-tailed quolls with the significant re-discovery of the Northern quoll in Carnarvon National Park in 2015 using WDDs. Amanda’s success in WDD methodology is based on robust scientifically validated methods and ethical standards, experience in dog obedience training, working dog principles, dog odour detection training and odour science principles, ecological field survey including complimentary survey methods, knowledge of an extensive range of native species & pest species ecology, biology and habitat requirements and a strong understanding and passion for animal behaviour (both canine & wildlife).  This unique blend of expertise & scientific rigour is the defining difference between Amanda Hancock and other WDD handlers in Australia.  Amanda’s clients include NPRSR, Environs Kimberley, Australian Wildlife Conservancy, Bush Heritage, Department of Defence, Fitzroy Catchment/The Nail-Tail Wallaby Recovery Program, Quollseekers, Logan City Council, Wildlife Preservation Society of Qld, RPS Group, RATCH Australia, BAAM, Community Catchment groups, Indigenous Ranger groups, and private landholders.  Amanda has also volunteered her expertise with wildlife causes and co-supervised postgraduate students at UQ Gatton on the WDD methodology.  

Her work with her K9 comrades – quoll detection dogs Kuna and Sparky has featured on ABC Radio National, ABC Radio Kimberley, Courier Mail and ABC Landline.



Chemical and elemental profiling of wildlife. Simin Maleknia, School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, UNSW, Sydney.

The illicit trade in wildlife greatly impacts endangered species, ecosystems stability and biodiversity conservation. The international trade in endangered species has been growing and is amongst the 4th largest transnational crimes according to the 2013 report of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). One of the major trafficking enforcement issues is the lack of rapid analytical methods to distinguish geographical origins or to identify wildlife in transport. Simin is an Environmental Scientist with a keen interest in wildlife conservation and will present on her pioneering research in Australia, developing elemental and chemical fingerprints as non-invasive forensic tools in relation to wildlife trafficking.

Please visit:


Developing a low cost and accurate DNA field-test kit to identify endangered species. Natalie T Schmitt, Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, McMaster University.

I’m a conservation genetic scientist, science presenter and documentary film maker with a strong passion for exploring new genetic techniques to assist in the monitoring of rare and elusive species, as well as developing holistic and community-driven solutions to conservation. Through my PhD with the Australian Antarctic Division and involvement in projects on endangered species, I have conducted international collaborative research which has improved our understanding of population structure, animal movement and behavior; providing scientific advice to inform Australia’s policy position at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and assisting in the conservation of Australia’s endangered marsupials. As an international science presenter and documentary film maker with Discovery Channel and Storyteller Productions, I have worked in developing countries and have seen the close relationship between poverty and unsustainable practices which have greatly impacted species biodiversity. By empowering people in the right way and providing them with the tools to monitor and protect endangered species we can achieve amazing things in conservation.


Lend your eyes to the wild: a global campaign to disrupt illegal wildlife crime

B. Fairbrother1, and P. Maguire1

1 Taronga Conservation Society Australia, Guest Experience, Education and Community Programs, Bradley’s Head Road, Mosman, NSW 2088

The world is dealing with an unprecedented spike in illegal wildlife trade; it is the greatest direct threat to the future of many iconic species. Taronga has partnered with TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, to create Wildlife Witness, the first global community action tool in the fight against illegal wildlife trade. Zoos are in a unique position to address illegal wildlife trade and can impact by raising awareness of the issue, facilitating action through the Wildlife Witness app and mobilising a global community of concerned individuals who are inspired to act for the wild.

Whilst the focus to date has been on reporting trade in South East Asia to ensure proof of concept, we are hoping to extend the platform to become a global crime disruption network. Here we will outline our vision to build a global community to become the eyes and the ears for wildlife crime, working with the global zoo and aquarium community.

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