Combating wildlife crime
Published online: 22 July 2010
ÓSpringer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010
It is with great pleasure that I introduce this special edition
dedicated to wildlife crime. Wildlife crime is an important
area of law enforcement that I have a strong commitment
to. It involves the illegal trade in animals, plants and their
derivatives and can result in the depletion of natural
resources, invasion of pest species and the transmission of
diseases. For the ﬁrst time an international journal has
dedicated an entire edition to the issue of wildlife crime,
bringing together submissions from numerous global
experts regarding their work in this area. The aim of this
initiative is to generate attention to this signiﬁcant criminal
The current global situation is summarized and dis-
cussed in the commentary by Wilson-Wilde . In a
positive move, international action is becoming more
coordinated and an overview of the 2009 INTERPOL
Wildlife Crime Group meeting in Brazil is presented in the
commentary by Neme .
At the international level there are 175 signatories to the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) . CITES provides a
system of control to inhibit the exploitation of animals and
plants and prevent trade from threatening the extinction of
endangered species. Fauna and ﬂora are listed on one of the
three Appendices of CITES. Appendix I lists species where
international trade is prohibited (exceptions are made for
non-commercial purposes, such as scientiﬁc research),
Appendix II lists species where international trade is reg-
ulated in circumstances where the trade does not endanger
the survival of the species and Appendix III lists species
where international trade is regulated at the request of a
particular country (for example Uruguay has listed the
eleven banded armadillo). Paramount to the enforcement of
CITES and the subsequent prosecution of offenders is the
ability to identify the species in question. Alacs et al. 
provide an excellent review of genetic DNA analysis
methods used in the forensic investigation of wildlife
crime, covering various available techniques that can be
applied and techniques that have potential for future
application. Tobe and Linacre take this a step further
investigating the use of DNA techniques in mixed samples
from more than one species  and Spencer et al. 
extend DNA techniques to the analysis of historical and
degraded samples with much success.
Offenders of wildlife crime can be categorized into three
main groups; minor offenders, organized illegal trading and
serious major criminal activity . Minor offenders gen-
erally relate to abuses against conditions in permits and are
more opportunistic types of crime. These offenders are
usually tracked through inadequate record keeping and
generally involve exchanges between wildlife collectors.
Organized illegal trading moves into the realms of delib-
erate clandestine poaching with intent to make gain and
meet the needs of the market. It requires planning and can
threaten wildlife, with no consideration of their habitat, for
monetary gain in selling specimens on the black market.
Serious major criminal activity differs from the latter in
that it is highly organized involving major criminal groups
who are professional, ﬁnancially backed and speciﬁcally
market products. These offenders may also be involved in
major fraud and drug shipping . Therefore combating
criminal activity requires a well-equipped forensic facility
to provide cutting edge technology, maximizing eviden-
tiary outputs. Setting up such a laboratory is not easy and
L. Wilson-Wilde (&)
ANZPAA National Institute of Forensic Science,
Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Forensic Sci Med Pathol (2010) 6:149–150
Ogden clearly highlights some of the issues and provides
an insight into how this might be achieved .
It is difﬁcult to ascertain speciﬁcally what drives
demand in particular wildlife trade; however it is thought
that a number of factors such as fashion, rarity of the
species, trends in alternative remedies and medicine and
criminal elements each play a part. Fashion can have a
major impact and is highly variable. Particularly endan-
gered species cost more and can therefore be in higher
demand by collectors due to higher proﬁts compared to the
risks and penalties incurred. Simply placing a species on
the CITES list, Appendix I can make a species more
appealing. Yates et al.  look at the identiﬁcation of hairs
from elephant and giraffe used in traditional style jewelry
(presumably bound for the tourist trade) using light
A number of very interesting case studies are included in
this edition to highlight the impact wildlife crime has on
the animals involved and the type of forensic analysis that
must be undertaken to assist the investigation. Byard et al.
 present a case study on unusual upper aerodigestive
tract obstructions in wild dolphins causing death. Byard
et al.  also discuss a case study on unexpected deaths in
captive fur seals and Carapetis et al.  present a case
illustrating the consequences of ingesting foreign material
by seabirds. In the article by Johnson two interesting case
studies are discussed regarding the illegal importation of
live bird eggs and the illegal possession of shark ﬁns .
Wildlife crime also includes offences involving
domesticated species, such as animal cruelty cases and
where an animal may be used to link an individual to the
commission of an offence (for example dog hairs on a
suspect). El-Sayed et al.  investigate the use of DNA
analysis in domesticated species and Clarke and Vanden-
berg look at the application of canine DNA proﬁling in
forensic casework . Wilson-Wilde et al.  look at
species identiﬁcation in the context of a laboratory con-
ducting standard DNA analysis and implications and rec-
ommendations for implementing a species identiﬁcation
method. Two book reviews are also included in this special
edition, Forensic Science in Wildlife Investigations, edited
by Linacre and Introduction to Veterinary and Compara-
tive Forensic Medicine by Cooper and Cooper.
We hope that the various concepts, research and issues
discussed in this edition are thought provoking and provide
an insight into this signiﬁcant global issue.
1. Wilson-Wilde L. Wildlife crime-a global problem. Forensic Sci
Med Pathol. 2010;6:221–2.
2. Neme L. INTERPOL’s Wildlife Crime Working Group Meeting.
Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2010;6:223–4.
3. CITES 2010. http://www.cites.org/eng/disc/what.shtml. Accessed
10 June 2010.
4. Alacs EA, Georges A, FitzSimmons NN, Robertson J. DNA
Detective: A review of molecular approaches to wildlife foren-
sics. Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2010;6:180–94.
5. Tobe SS, Linacre A. DNA typing in wildlife crime: recent
developments in species identiﬁcation. Forensic Sci Med Pathol.
6. Spencer PD, Schmidt D, Hummel S. Identiﬁcation of historical
specimens and wildlife seizures originating from highly degraded
sources of kangaroos. Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2010;6:225–32.
7. McDowell D. Wildlife crime policy and the law. Canberra:
Australian Government Publishing Service; 1997.
8. Ogden R. Forensic science, genetics and wildlife biology: getting
the right mix for a wildlife DNA forensics lab. Forensic Sci Med
9. Yates BC, Espinoza EO, Baker BW. Forensic species identiﬁ-
cation of elephant (Elephantidae) and giraffe (Girafﬁdae) tail hair
using cross section analysis and light microscopy. Forensic Sci
Med Pathol. 2010;6:165–71.
10. Byard RW, Tomo I, Kemper CM, Gibbs SE, Bossley M, Mach-
ado A, Hill M. Unusual causes of fatal upper aerodigestive tract
obstruction in wild bottlenose dolphins (Turiops aduncus).
Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2010;6:207–10.
11. Byard RW, Machado A, Braun K, Solomon LB, Boardman W.
Mechanisms of deaths in captive juvenile New Zealand fur seals
(Arctocephalus forsteri). Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2010;6:
12. Carapetis E, Machado AJ, Byard RW. Lethal consequences of
ingested foreign material in seabirds. Forensic Sci Med Pathol.
13. Johnson R. The use of DNA identiﬁcation in prosecuting wildlife-
trafﬁckers in Australia. Do the penalties ﬁt the crimes? Forensic
Sci Med Pathol. 2010;6:211–6.
14. El-Sayed Y, Mohamed O, Ashry K, El-Rahman SA. Using spe-
cies-speciﬁc repeat and PCR-RFLP in typing of DNA derived
from blood of human and animal species. Forensic Sci Med
15. Clarke M, Vandenberg N. Dog attack: the application of canine
DNA proﬁling in forensic casework. Forensic Sci Med Pathol.
16. Wilson-Wilde L, Norman J, Robertson J, Sarre S, Georges A.
Current issues in species identiﬁcation for forensic science and
the validity of using the cytochrome oxidase I (COI) gene.
Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2010;6:233–41.
150 Forensic Sci Med Pathol (2010) 6:149–150