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Forensic Scientists Fight Wildlife Crime

10 June 2017 | TRAFFIC International News Release

Edinburgh, UK, 8th June 2017Representatives from more than 30 countries this week attended the Society for Wildlife Forensic Science’s symposium held in Edinburgh to examine the importance of forensic science in detecting and tackling wildlife crime.

The meeting focused on how scientists can best support wildlife crime investigations—from illegal timber logging and fisheries, to illegal wildlife trade and persecution at both national and international levels. It was the first time the symposium had been held outside the USA.

The keynote speaker was Steven Broad, TRAFFIC’s Executive Director, who spoke about the challenges for law enforcement and compliance in tackling illegal trade in wildlife, timber and fish.

Also speaking was TRAFFIC’s Nick Ahlers, who manages the USAID-funded Wildlife-TRAPS Project for TRAFFIC and IUCN. He outlined work under the Project helping develop forensic capacity within international wildlife law enforcement together with partner, TRACE, the Wildlife Forensic Network. Support included the sponsoring of delegates from Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Viet Nam, Gabon, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia to attend and present their research during the symposium.

According to Ahlers, “Wildlife crime is a global crisis that requires an international and collaborative response. Forensic scientists from Africa and Asia are at the front lines of aiding enforcement personnel with new innovations that can help us stay one step ahead of wildlife traffickers.”

The Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, announced during the meeting the formation of a new partnership between the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Government to establish a Wildlife Forensics Development Programme, to provide a platform for international research and training. She said the new programme would build on Edinburgh’s strong reputation for biosciences, taking a progressive approach that will strengthen the links between enforcement, policy and forensics.

Dr Rob Ogden, President of the Society for Wildlife Forensic Science, said “The fight against wildlife crime in all its forms requires co-ordinated efforts from multiple partners to reduce incentives and demand, and to investigate and prosecute criminal activity. Forensic science has revolutionised criminal investigations and is now being employed to help protect some of the world’s most threatened species from persecution and illegal trade.”

About SWFS

The Society for Wildlife Forensic Science was formed in November 2009 with the mission of developing wildlife forensic science into a comprehensive, integrated and mature discipline. Wildlife forensic science is the application of a range of scientific disciplines to legal cases involving non-human biological evidence. These disciplines include genetics, morphology, chemistry, pathology, and veterinary sciences. The diverse array of wildlife forensic practitioners’ disciplines worldwide is represented in the Society for Wildlife Forensic Science (SWFS).

About Wildlife-TRAPS

The USAID-funded Wildlife Trafficking, Response, Assessment and Priority Setting (Wildlife TRAPS) Project is an initiative that is designed to secure a transformation in the level of co-operation between an international community of stakeholders who are impacted by illegal wildlife trade between Africa and Asia. The project is designed to increase understanding of the true character and scale of the response required, to set priorities, identify intervention points, and test non-traditional approaches with project partners.

About TRACE Wildlife Forensics Network

TRACE Wildlife Forensics Network is a not for profit organisation based in the United Kingdom working to promote the use of forensic science in wildlife crime prosecutions and wildlife trade monitoring through the delivery of training, capacity building and forensic test development  projects.

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