A team of scientists from China and Southeast Asia completed a training course conducted by U.S. Government forensic experts designed to help them track organized crime syndicates that are leading the trafficking of rare and endangered species across the world.
The one-week course was held at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory (NFWFL) in Ashland, Oregon, the world’s top wildlife forensics laboratory. Instructors and trainees included government officers from the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN), Chinese Government and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The training course is one part of a multi-pronged U.S. Government- sponsored program that is linking enforcement agencies between the United States and Asia to investigate and stop massive poaching of rare and endangered species, including elephants, rhinos, tigers, bears, and pangolins. Earlier this year, investigators from the United States joined police and other enforcement personnel from 22 Asian and Africancountries to conduct a month-long operation against wildlife crime syndicates. “Operation Cobra,” co-sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Chinese Government, resulted in arrests and massive seizures across three continents. This forensics course will help government scientists support similar transcontinental operations in the future.
Crimes involving wildlife, such as illegal trade, are increasingly lucrative for organized criminal syndicates and can often be difficult to prosecute. Wildlife forensic training is a valuable tool for those tasked with combatting the multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade. Wildlife forensics training provides scientists the capacity to prove, among other things, the origin of illegally traded animals. For example, DNA analysis of an elephant tusk could tell prosecutors the origin of that particular elephant and pinpoint the country where the original criminal activity took place.
During the week-long training, participants received practical application and demonstrations in genetics, morphology and evidence documentation, handling and storage techniques. Participants examined various types of wildlife products including rhino horn, elephant ivory, antlers and bone and types of leather from turtles and seals.
The forensics training course was sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development “ARREST” Program (Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking), coordinated by FREELAND. ARREST is the U.S. Government’s largest counter wildlife trafficking program and helps to support President Obama’s July 1, 2013 Executive Order on Combating Wildlife Crime.
Note to editor:
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is an independent U.S. Government Agency that operates under the foreign policy direction of the U.S. Secretary of State. Following 50 years of improving lives through development and humanitarian assistance, USAID is the principal U.S. Government development agency partnering with countries throughout the world to promote peace, prosperity, and security. Please visit www.usaid.gov or follow www.facebook.com/USAIDAsia for more information.
Freeland is an international organization dedicated to a world free of wildlife trafficking and human slavery. Freeland works throughout Asia, raising public awareness and building local capacity to protect critical ecosystems, wildlife and vulnerable people. Freeland is the lead implementing partner of ARREST (Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking), a program sponsored by the United States Government in partnership with ASEAN and over 50 governmental and non-governmental organizations. For more information, visit www.freeland.org also; follow Freeland on twitter @FREELANDpeople or facebook.com/freelandfoundation
Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN- WEN) is the world’s largest wildlife law enforcement network and involves law enforcement agencies of the 10 ASEAN countries. The network facilitates inter-agency and cross-border collaboration in the fight against the region’s illegal wildlife, which threatens biodiversity, endangers public health, and undermines economic well-being. For more information, visit www.asean-wen.org