A RESEARCH hub that merges science and cybersecurity hopes to hone in on illegal wildlife trading.

The newly-formed Oxford Martin Programme will tackle the trade of illegal sales and poaching.

Its director E.J. Milner-Gulland said: "Interconnectedness facilitates and reinforces the rapid, global exchange of information so that trade in wildlife is now possible on a scale, and at a speed that is unprecedented. Any exploitable species is now at risk.

"Tackling this issue requires a new research approach that takes stock of the complexity of the problem and the pace of developments, and integrates with the needs of practitioners in the real world."

The programme was enabled thanks to a £1 million grant from the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University, and focuses on the internet and its ability to fuel the trade, alongside social changes in consumers.

Teams will collaborate with governments and conservationists to create and test intervention strategies, in a bid to tackle illegal wildlife trade currently estimated to be worth up to $10 billion annually.

Programme research fellow Joss Wright said: "Developments in cyber security also offer hope: traders might be increasingly sophisticated in their use of the web, but there’s also a great deal of scope for new methods of law enforcement."

Programme co-director Paul Montgomery added: "We have a real vacuum here when it comes to data and case studies.

"Interventions in consumer behaviour need to be based on solid evidence."