A pioneering new project trials fingerprinting techniques to battle pangolin poaching.
Forensic fingerprinting techniques will now be used in the battle against illegal wildlife trade as new methods of lifting fingermarks from trafficked animals, are announced today.
Researchers at the University of Portsmouth and international conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London), with support from the UK Border force, developed the technology with one particular animal in mind – the pangolin.
Pangolins – also known as scaly anteaters because of their appearance – are found throughout Asia and Africa, but their numbers are dwindling as a result of poaching for international trade.
Around 300 pangolins are poached every day, making these unusual animals the most illegally trafficked mammals in the world. Their meat is considered a delicacy in China and Vietnam, while their scales are used in traditional Asian medicine. They are also used in traditional African bush medicine. All trade in pangolin meat and scales is currently outlawed under the international CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) agreement.
This new method uses gelatine lifters with a low-adhesive gelatine layer on one side, which are used universally by forensic practitioners for lifting footwear marks, fingermarks and trace materials off various objects in criminal investigations.
In a preliminary trial, the researchers tested the usability of gelatine lifters for visualising finger marks on pangolin scales. Using 10 pangolin scales from several species, supplied by Grant Miller and Tim Luffman of UK Border Force, each scale was gripped by five participants. A gelatine lifter was applied to the scale, removed and scanned using a BVDA GLScanner system which provided 100 fingermarks (one from the front and one from the back of the scales).
The fingermarks were then graded for the presence of ridge detail on the University’s BVDA gel imaging scanner and 89 per cent of the visualised gelatine lifts examined produced clear ridge detail. This means that law enforcement agencies will, potentially, be able to use the mark to identify persons of interest who have come into contact with the scale.
Dr Nicholas Pamment, who runs the Wildlife Crime Unit at the University of Portsmouth, said: “This is a significant breakthrough for wildlife crime investigation. Wildlife trafficking is a significant factor in the loss of habitats and species. While forensic science techniques are being used as part of the investigation process, there is a lack of research looking at ‘what works’ in the context, or within the limitations of the wildlife crime investigation and in the environments where the investigations take place.
“What we have done is to create a quick, easy and usable method for wildlife crime investigation in the field to help protect these critically endangered mammals. It is another tool that we can use to combat the poaching and trafficking of wild animals.”
Christian Plowman, Law Enforcement Advisor for ZSL, said: “This project is a great example of how multiple organisations are working together to not only develop methods that work, but to optimise the methods for use in wildlife crime investigations.
“The initial catalyst for this project were Dr Brian Chappell (University of Portsmouth) and I, both former Scotland Yard detectives, now working in conservation law enforcement for ZSL and the other in academia. This point of uniqueness underlines and enhances credibility for the project and for both organisations.”
Grant Miller, Head of the UK’s National CITES Enforcement Team, said: “We know how prized pangolins are by those engaged in wildlife crime. I am delighted that Border Force has been able to play its part in the development of this method of lifting fingermarks from pangolin scales, technology which will help bring poachers and smugglers to justice.”
The researchers have now developed gelatine lifter packs for Wildlife Rangers in Kenya and Cameroon to help in their fight against illegal poaching of pangolins. Each pack contains 10 gelatine lifters, scissors, insulating packs, evidence bags, a roller and a simple pictorial guide for the Rangers to follow. The field packs for the Kenyan wildlife service were initially provided for the examination of poached elephant ivory and dead elephants killed by poachers.
Jac Reed, Senior Specialist Forensic Technician at the University of Portsmouth, said: ““What is fundamental to this method is its application, it is easy to use and employs low-level technology. This is so important for rangers in the field who need to be able to get good quality fingermarks very quickly to ensure their own safety. It is also important for law enforcement in developing countries who may not have access to more advanced technologies and expensive forensic equipment.”
Receive an email update when we add a new ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE article.
The Latest on: Illegal wildlife trade
via Google News
The Latest on: Illegal wildlife trade
UNDP, GEF embark on vast programme targeting wildlife trafficking in commercial ports
on November 14, 2018 at 9:27 am
Increasing demand for illegal wildlife products is threatening to drive species such ... According to the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), 403 tons of ivory were seized from 2007-2017 – equiv... […]
China launches campaign against illegal rhino, tiger trade
on November 14, 2018 at 6:05 am
Photo: Xinhua China launched a nationwide campaign on Wednesday against the illegal trade of rhinoceros, tiger and their byproducts after a controversial decision to reopen the trade enraged wildlife ... […]
Florida wildlife refuge welcomes 4 new cheetah cubs
on November 13, 2018 at 4:51 pm
Only about 7,000 cheetahs remain in the wild due to poaching, habitat loss, the illegal wildlife trade and similar issues. The Florida Times-Union reports the two female and two male cubs were born la... […]
Photos/Video: 4 cheetah cubs born at Florida wildlife refuge
on November 13, 2018 at 7:20 am
Their numbers have plunged as a result of poaching, habitat loss and degradation, the illegal wildlife trade and because of ranchers who kill them to protect livestock. “We are proud these four cubs b... […]
China appears to walk back controversial decision to reopen trade in rhino and tiger bones
on November 13, 2018 at 6:26 am
Chinese officials appear to have walked back on a widely panned scheme to reopen the trade in rhino and ... strive for protecting wildlife and building our harmonious and beautiful planet." Ding went ... […]
China makes a U-turn on legalizing tiger and rhino trade following international outcry
on November 12, 2018 at 8:52 pm
China, Ding added, “has not changed its stance on wildlife protection and will not ease the crackdown on illegal trafficking and trade of rhinos, tigers and their byproducts.” The State Council unveil... […]
China Postpones New Tiger Bone and Rhino Horn Trade Law
on November 12, 2018 at 5:49 pm
This move helps maintain the leadership role China has taken in tackling the illegal wildlife trade and reducing market demand. With wild tiger and rhino populations at such low levels and facing ... […]
Prince William's anger at illegal wildlife trade
on November 9, 2018 at 2:48 pm
Prince William feels "really angry" about the illegal wildlife trade. The 36-year-old royal has long been a supporter of protecting endangered wildlife including elephants, rhinos, and tigers, and has ... […]
Prince William Speaks Out in Film to Fight Illegal Wildlife Trade: 'It Makes You Really Angry'
on November 9, 2018 at 11:32 am
Prince William continues to speak out about the illegal wildlife trade. In The Last Animals, William, 36, discusses the shocking deaths of rangers trying to protect the lives of elephants, rhinos ... […]
via Bing News