Wildlife forensic is the field responsible for scientifically examining, evaluating and identifying the evidence found at the wildlife crime scene. It is applied usually at the places where the animals are killed for trade, trafficking or personal enjoyment.
Forensics plays a crucial role in curtailing the wildlife trade and human-wildlife conflicts. Poaching (killing wild animals that are protected from hunting), is one of the most serious crimes investigated by wildlife forensic scientists.
The various branches of forensic science involved in wildlife forensics are:
- Forensic Serology
- Forensic Toxicology
- Forensic DNA Analysis
- Forensic examination of Impressions (pugmark examination)
- Forensic Firearm Examination
- Forensic Documentation
- Cyber Forensics
- Forensic Veterinary Pathology
All the above mentioned divisions use a variety of techniques for the examination but still there are a lot of challenges that limit the analysis process.
Challenges in Wildlife Investigation
1. Wide Area of Habitat
Wildlife crimes are usually committed in the restricted areas where the animals are protected. These areas are spread over many hectares of land where investigation is difficult due to large distances. Transporting the suspects and evidence takes a lot of time that can be hectic and biological evidence may lose their integrity.
2. Law of Progressive Change
The change in the crime scene due to natural conditions can limit the investigation of wildlife crime scenes. Also there are a wide variety of species of animals in the wild which expands the area of investigation.
3. Lack of Equipments
The equipments required in wildlife investigation are different from the other crime investigations. There is a lack of basic equipments like cameras for crime scene photography, and freezers or nitrogen canisters for evidence preservation are very expensive and also require high maintenance. Also these equipments are not available at the crime scene or can not be transported easily.
4. Dynamic Wildlife Crimes
Wildlife crimes are changing their aspects day-by-day. The offenders are changing their tactics that destroy the transient evidences, to avoid being noticed. They are hiring vehicles for transportation and forfeiture of the undercover officers.
5. Corrupted Officials
Corruption is the most prevailing barrier in the law enforcement. Standard import and export procedures are not strictly followed by the custom agencies that leave loopholes for the smugglers. More attention is paid on the import cargo than the export cargo as the revenue collection is more in importation.
6. Lack of Interagency Collaboration
There is a fault on the part of the law enforcement agencies which do not collaborate with each other that leads the investigation to the dead end. Custom officials violate the wildlife laws as well as the custom laws that is the sign of neglect and irresponsibility on their parts.
7. Weak Legislation
This is the biggest barrier in the law enforcement to prevent wildlife crimes. There are certain nations that have introduced laws regarding wildlife crimes while there are some where no such laws exist or the admissibility of the forensic results using new technology is not allowed. Infact, the weak laws limit the powers and natures of wildlife investigators.
8. Political Interference
There are various cases reported where the wildlife crime offenders have escaped from the punishments due to their political connections. Politicians interfere with the investigation procedures which hampers the law enforcement.
9. Confined Capacity
Wildlife forensics is an emerging field, therefore it lacks the institutional and investigational capacities. The number of expert investigators in wildlife forensics and other fields related to it is limited which makes the investigation process difficult and time consuming.
10. Transnational Offenders
Wildlife crimes have now become transnational. The offenders usually visit different nations to traffick and kill endangered animals or their parts and smuggle them across the international borders. It is easy for them because the law enforcement across the international borders is expensive as well as time consuming. Therefore the investigators limit their jurisdiction within the boundaries.
Wildlife forensics is in the developing stage therefore it has a number of limitations or challenges. But these challenges need to be overcome for smooth enforcement of laws. Therefore, it is the responsibility of national as well as international agencies to strictly follow the standard import and export procedures and abide by the laws.
There is a need to develop more reliable technologies and equipments to conduct effective and less time consuming forensic examinations on the wildlife evidences, so that their admissibility in the court is not questioned. Also solutions should be evolved to combat the problems like movement in large distances and transportation of evidences from crime scenes to the forensic laboratories.
The investigation procedures should be made independent of any political influence and made corruption free. Robust and effective investigations are required in wildlife crimes as the animals also deserve justice and protection from human’s inhumane greed.