One of the most important things to do for wildlife as far as we humans are concerned is to protect and preserve it and its environment. Not everyone sees this duty as such a solemn one, but sees wildlife as property, sport and something expendable.
While some wildlife is property, all of it is sacred and to be preserved for the enjoyment of everyone. Wildlife forensics exists for the purpose of protecting both of these specific interests where fauna and flora are concerned, domestic and globally.
Forensics is the application of a particular field of study in preparation for litigation in a court of law. The law of the land must be upheld in every aspect of our lives, even with our animals. Crime labs are not solely dedicated to the investigation of homicide or theft but also to poaching, abuse and trespassing.
From big game to small house pets the non-human crime laws cover the gambit. These include things not often thought of like illegal fisheries, illegal timber trade, rare orchid poaching and the organized crime involved in it. It is wildlife forensics that helps aid in the assigning of criminal activity and the implication of such criminals.
It is estimated that the illegal activities leading to investigations by wildlife forensic scientists throughout the world on a yearly basis is in the neighborhood of fifty-three billion dollars. This fact alone supports the recent arrival of certain regulatory bodies like CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). This is one of the more popular and powerful organizations, among many other regulatory bodies, dedicated to providing wildlife forensic investigation and preparation for litigation.
Wildlife forensics is relatively new compared to other forensic fields. It has only been since the 1960s that any regulation of illegal trade, poaching and abuse of fauna and flora has occurred. In the United States alone, it was only as recent as the mid 1970’s that the Endangered Species Act was passed. Since, there have been many acts passed, making wildlife forensics a necessary and vital part of law enforcement.
When a scientist is asked to investigate a wildlife forensics case, it can be anything from a case involving dog fighting, rare orchids, protected timber and even the illegal fur trade. When investigating such crimes, items like blood and tissue samples, teeth, bones, and the inside contents of an animal may be analyzed. Sometimes the investigator has to look into the crime for the type of poison or chemical used to kill an animal.
Investigators have to test certain medicines traded and found only on the black market that are made from animals illegally. Many times the analysis of DNA is used to make a species identification by a wildlife forensics investigator.
For as long as plants and animals have existed, people have used, abused, smuggled and illegally traded them. The next time you buy your caviar, be thankful for people like the forensic wildlife investigators that test the roe to be true Beluga.