Forensic Approaches in the Solution of Wildlife crime

Wildlife crime (WLC) is a significant aspect of the law implementation and it includes the unlawful exchange creatures, plants what’s more, their subsidiaries and can bring about the consumption of normal assets, intrusion of vermin species and the transmission of illnesses. The proportion of crime identified with wildlife is still baffling yet it is on the expansion and has detectable impacts with the sensational decrease in numerous types of widely varied vegetation.

The sorts of criminological science techniques appropriate to the requirement of wildlife enactment. Subsequently, it is critical to understand that measurable science has numerous procedures that can be reciprocal.

Forensic science has a scope of devices and it is fundamental that the fitting device is utilized to address the claim. The current article mostly centres around the wild life crime and detail depiction of Forensic science approaches for example different instruments and strategies those might be utilized as protect for its answer.

Wildlife Crime

Wildlife crime is a global issue in the present scenario because of illegal trade of wildlife flora, fauna and their products that takes place all over the country. Also, it includes possession of and/or their derivatives without valid authorization. Sometimes there is trade (within a country or outside as export) of the scheduled species or their derivatives. Rare but is not uncommon is the wildfire that occurs as a natural calamity for the wild. Humans sometimes invade the wild with injurious substances, such as burning cigarette stub, in a National Park, Sanctuary, Community Reserve or a Tiger Reserve. It involves most of the criminals or poachers as per their Mens rea in wildlife crime for food, fuels, fodder, handicrafts, building materials, clothing, ornaments, or of private or scientific purposes.

Wild life crime & Forensic science

Forensics, originating from the Latin word forensis that means “in open court”, encompasses numerous disciplines – art, commerce, psychology, and science – that can be used to investigate a criminal matter. Forensic science governs any and all sciences that can be applied to such investigations to examine evidences, create linkages, and to reveal yet unknown information. Forensic science has in recent history helped nab many blue- and white-collar criminals through the creative application of scientific principles and development of new scientific methodologies. Today, forensic scientists are putting their expertise to use in the investigation of wildlife crime – be it hunting or poaching, illegal transportation, or trade, and illicit use or consumption of protected wildlife and their derivatives.

Wildlife Forensic & Conservation Genetics Cell

The Wildlife Forensic and Conservation Genetics (WFCG) Cell was formed by merging the Wildlife Forensic and Conservation Genetics Laboratories for strengthening the enforcement of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 of India. WFCG Cell has a dedicated team of expert ‘scientist and technologists’ and ‘state-of-the-art’ facility with high-end equipment for undertaking research and analysis for producing the scientific analysis reports/protocols in the fields of forensics and conservation. The major functions of the Cell include undertaking research for the enhancement of the wildlife forensics protocols, identification of species from a variety of wildlife parts and products for the enforcement support, developing and maintaining a repository of wildlife reference samples. In July 2017, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India has issued a ‘Gazette Notification’ for the recognition of WFCG Cell experts as ‘Government Scientific Experts’ under sub-section (4) of section 293 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

Wildlife Crime Analysis and Forensic Techniques

  1. Morphological Analysis
  2. Footprints Analysis
  3. Microscopic examination
  4. Serological techniques
  5. Molecular biology techniques
  6. Infra-Red Techniques
  7. Inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy
  8. Radioisotopes tracer techniques

Limitations of protein marker based identification

The apoptosis process during the hair biogenesis is the major reason behind the poor DNA extraction from hair. In the biogenesis process of hair most of the DNA degraded and only trace of DNA extracted Range of discrimination also has not been established till date.

Centre for Wildlife Forensic Sciences

Morphometry laboratory

The Morphometry Section of the Centre for Wildlife Forensic Sciences uses the classic techniques of comparative anatomy to identify wild animal specimens that aid in species identification.  “Identifying the victim” is a primary step in wildlife crime investigations, as the identity of animal needs to be established for determination of violation of wildlife laws and conviction of the perpetrator.

For example, the Lab’s morphometrist are routinely asked to answer questions like these:

-Is this carving made from elephant ivory or cattle bone or fake?

-Is this fur coat is of genuine snow leopard or dyed rabbit?

-Are these feathers from grey jungle fowl or domestic turkey? 

Forensic DNA laboratory

The DNA Section of the Forensic Laboratory uses the modern techniques of molecular genetics for the identification of wildlife specimens, collected as evidence at the wildlife crime scene.  DNA-based analysis in forensic investigations extends from application in identification of unknown species to assess relatedness among individuals and populations. They include DNA-based species identification, individual identification, sexing, and geographic assignment of wildlife that are being illegally trafficked. Nucleotide sequence analysis of mitochondrial Cytochrome b (Cytb) is effective in identifying many species groups (Parson et al. 2000; Hsieh et al. 2001; Branicki et al. 2003). The region of the mtCyt b that is used for universal identification of animal species consists of 472 base-pairs (Verma & Singh, 2003). This method is suitable for the identification of DNA from various biological materials of unknown origin. It has been tested against a broad taxonomic range of animal species (Verma & Singh, 2003). The method is designed to work with samples like skin, meat, blood, bones, feathers, etc. It is also successful with cooked meat products, but success is dependent on the intensity of cooking.

Lockdown slows wildlife forensics

As India carefully rises up out of an all-inclusive lockdown set up to check the spread of the novel Covid ailment (COVID-19), wildlife forensic researchers have hailed worries over the postponement in examining wildlife violations in the nation. The all-inclusive lockdown, which is viewed as important to straighten the bend of the infection, made a chink in the chain for wildlife forensic researchers: from dispatch/gathering of tests, transport of synthetic concoctions, and preparing tests. There is additionally the anxiety of the chance of a cut in assets for research.

Wildlife Institute of India scientist Samrat Mondol, who runs the rhino forensic facility said the pause in laboratory activities has resulted in a delay in processing some rhino case samples they received just before the lockdown. “We have not been able to process the samples so definitely, there will be delays in providing the reports to concerned authorities. During the lockdown, I received emails from the forest department about cases that they dispatched (or are planning to dispatch), but I am not sure when will I receive them,” Mondol told Mongabay-India.

At the Hyderabad-based Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES), Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology too, forensic work has been affected.“We have received only two cases recently from nearby areas in Telangana state. This is worrying as investigations on wildlife crimes are being hampered,” said Karthikeyan Vasudevan at LaCONES.

Reference database

“We have now developed morphology-based identification protocols for distinguishing scales of Indian and Chinese Pangolin with high confidence,” he said. The ZSI ( the Zoological Survey of India, Kolkata) is now developing protocols to identify the number of individuals killed in a seizure from the DNA analyses, he added. Scientists at the ZSI, however, pointed out that in most cases the samples they receive from investigating agencies in cases of wildlife crime are disfigured and have lost characters of morphological identity, which poses a major challenge.

Wider database

“We are not just confining our efforts up to species identification but our scientists are also involved in creating a reference database to assign the seizures to the source of origin, identifying sexes from seizures to understand poaching/ hunting pressure on the species which might impact the species demography in coming years,” said Director of ZSI Kailash Chandra. According to Dr Chandra, the ZSI is one of four organisations authorised by the Government of India to submit species identification reports from the confiscated materials. “We have a dedicated facility for DNA analysis at the ZSI, where we can identify samples at the molecular level using DNA forensics. This new tool is helping in solving a number of wildlife crimes,” he added. The ZSI has also formulated a standard operating procedure in the investigation of wildlife crime.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the time has come to truly harness the approaches of forensics in our common intention and efforts to abolish the wildlife crime in its tracks.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the meaning of Forensic approaches?
  2. What is wild life crime?
  3. Are there any laboratories for forensic approaches?
  4. What are the techniques used by forensic experts for analysing wildlife crime?

References

  1. http://www.annexpublishers.co/articles/JFSC/5402-Wildlife-Forensic-Current-Techniques-and-their-Limitations.pdf
  2. http://www.annexpublishers.co/articles/JFSC/5402-Wildlife-Forensic-Current-Techniques-and-their-Limitations.pdf
  3. https://wii.gov.in/wildlife_forensic#:~:text=The%20Wildlife%20Forensic%20and%20Conservation,)%20Act%2C%201972%20of%20India
  4. http://www.annexpublishers.co/articles/JFSC/5402-Wildlife-Forensic-Current-Techniques-and-their-Limitations.pdf
  5. http://www.aiwc.res.in/centre-for-wildlife-forensic-sciences
  6. https://india.mongabay.com/2020/05/lockdown-slows-wildlife-forensics/

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