Magazine article The Futurist

The "Scotland Yard" of Wildlife Crime

Magazine article The Futurist

The "Scotland Yard" of Wildlife Crime

Article excerpt

Forensics lab aims to prosecute poachers.

The illegal marketing of rare animals and animal parts and products is growing around the world. But physical evidence of poaching and other wildlife crimes historically has been difficult to obtain. To counter the poaching of endangered species, the U.S. National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory was established in Oregon in 1989.

In the past, successful prosecutions of wildlife poachers were as much luck as anything. "In most cases, we would bluff - and hope the perpetrators would confess and plead guilty," says Kenneth Goddard, director of the lab sometimes referred to as the "Scotland Yard" of wildlife crime. "Or we had to catch them in the act of killing the animal."

The wildlife crime lab applies state-of-the-art forensic science to wildlife criminal investigations. The lab works to identify the species in question (particularly in the case of illegal animal trading), to determine the cause of an animal's death, and to connect a suspect to a criminal act. To convict someone for illegal trading of wildlife, enforcement agents must prove what species is being traded, so the lab's forensic experts may have to identify the animal from a product such as a briefcase or piece of jewelry. …

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