Wildlife Forensic: Current Techniques and Limitations

The wildlife contains untamed and various forms of floral and faunal species, which is important for biological balance and human existence. The poaching and illegal trade have caused in the loud decline of many wild species of flora and fauna around the world. The necessity of the time therefore is to focus on wildlife defense for the bearable development of land and future capability of human beings. In this evaluation, we have focused on different techniques being applied in wildlife forensic science for the identification of wildlife species as well as their geographical origin. These techniques can be engaged to control the wildlife crimes and convict the criminals complicated in the illegal trade of wildlife flora, fauna, and their goods.


Wildlife refers to the native wild fauna and flora of a region. According to the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972 “wildlife” includes any animal, aquatic or land vegetation which forms part of any habitat. Wildlife forensics is the application of science to legal cases involving wildlife. This field uses scientific procedures to investigate a wildlife-related crime which involves the exotic pet trade poaching and other illegal hunting activities.[i] It is a part of forensic biology which is concerned with the use of technology such as molecular biology that is DNA profiling and sequencing to fight against wildlife crime.[ii]

There is a growing range of modern DNA approaches that can be used in wildlife crime investigations that have proven to be highly discriminatory. Wildlife forensics is a quite new ground of Criminal Investigation. It aims at using scientific procedures to examine identify and compare evidence from crime scenes and to link the evidence with a suspect and a victim which is specifically an animal or plant.[iii]

Wildlife Forensic: Fundamental of Wildlife Forensic

Wildlife crime can be defined as taking possession trade of movement, processing consumption of wild animals and plants all the derivatives in contravention of any international, regional, or national legislations, Infliction of Cruelty too and the prosecution of wild animals both free-living and captive are also at times added to the definition though wild animals and plants are the victims of any crime at the first place. It has got a cascading effect on the ecosystem in a particular country or region.

The Indian Constitution describes:

Wildlife as our national wealth and the country has become a victim of wildlife crimes. As the illegal wildlife trade involves huge amounts of money, it’s also considered a serious economic offense. Hunting and Illegal trade are major wildlife offenses. All other offenses like preparation, possession, transportation, and processing, etc. are ancillary offenses that mean wildlife offenders can be divided into two groups:-

1. Poachers or Hunters

2. Buyers of Hunted/Captured Animal

In the Indian Context, the poachers are often compelled by the poor socio-economic conditions. Wildlife crimes differ from other crime forms like murder, theft, drugs, etc. in the following aspects.

  1. Wildlife crimes are location specific. To commit a wildlife crime, the offender has to invariably go to the place where the targeted wildlife is available.
  2. Acts that are now constructed as a wildlife offense were not criminal acts until the enactment of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Hunting that tops the list of wildlife crimes was once an act of valor and royal pastime. The great hunters used to be the heroes of their times. The third one is:-

  1. The public at large is not affected or disturbed by the wildlife crimes

In the case of conventional crime like murder, theft, or robbery, every incident infuses a sense of fear into the minds of people that anybody could be a victim of such criminal acts and the public at large is concerned about such activities and contribute towards the prevention of such crimes. This does not happen in the case of wildlife crime. Illegal wildlife trade is driven mainly by the huge profits earned by the traders. Low risk and low penalties make the trade highly lucrative.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime that is UNODC included wildlife crimes in the list of Transnational Organized Crimes (TOC) in 2003. Transnational Organized Crime, as defined by the UNODC is “a structured group of three or more persons, acting together to commit one or more serious crimes to obtain financial or material benefit and these crimes are planned and committed more than in one country.

Punishment for Wildlife Crime

A serious crime is an offense punishable by imprisonment of at least 4 years or more that. Therefore, most wildlife crimes fall into the category of serious crimes. Wildlife is essentially important from the constitutional point of view. Protection and improvement of the environment and safeguarding of forest and wildlife are included in the Directive Principles of State Policy in the Constitution of India. The Constitution also states that it is a fundamental duty of every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment and protection of wild animals and birds are in the concurrent list of the seven scheduled under article 246 of the Constitution of India.

International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was established in 1963 and, as of 2004, includes 167 member countries.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animal plants does not threaten their survival. Annually, international wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars and to include hundreds and millions of plant and animal specimens as such.

Wildlife Forensic Evidence

The types of evidence analyzed by wildlife forensics lab include any part of an animal including the blood and tissue samples, carcasses, hair, teeth, bones, claws, talons, tusks, heights, fur, feathers, or stomach contents. While a forensic scientist may also investigate materials used to kill or harm animals such as poisons, pesticides, projectiles, and weapons.


Illustrations should be correctly marked with figures or symbols and their portrayal should be providing in the furthering notes with a crime scene drawing covering the information about the places from where these samples have been composed.

Shackle of Study

Samples should be crammed properly and wrapped. An example of the seal should also be delivered in the promoting note. Sustaining chain of custody is an important part of crime investigation to confirm no meddling has been done during the drive of posts.

Wildlife Crime Analysis and Forensic Techniques

It contains the submission of forensic science (application of science to the matters of Law) in solving legal matters associated with Wildlife Crimes. The documentation of seized materials and the endangered species are compulsory to send to the forensic research laboratory dealing with wildlife crimes or wildlife-related research associations. Some exact characteristics of species or seized materials are hired for wildlife species ID in forensic laboratories.

Morphological Analysis

The morphological or physical features are the simplest way of wildlife forensic way in the identification process of evidence and the least exclusive forensic analysis. The identification of species founded on morphological features of wildlife flora and fauna affords important clues based on the external entrance. Diverse species usually possess distinct physical appearances like skin coat color, the pattern of pigmentation, eyes, pinna, tails, ivory, etc. Ivory, illegally traded from Asian or African elephant is a form of dentine, has an exceptional characteristic pattern known as Schreyer.

Footprints Analysis

Footprints of wildlife species are vital evidence in the forensic analysis of species. Footprints are impressions of animals foot on surfaces where they walkout or places of their captivity. The type and age of the species identification are based on the pattern of the footprints and their size.

Microscopic examination

It includes the morphology, elemental analysis, and circular scale pattern of the hair [23]. Hair plays a vital role which can be used to identify the species [24, 25]. Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) can be exploited for the identification of the animals based on hair signs.

Serological techniques

Serological techniques are created on the interaction between antibody and their cognate antigen just like the lock and key model. Species-specific antibodies are castoff for the identification of species of the derivation of the organic evidence. The difficulties with serological techniques are the non-availability of species-specific antibodies in our research laboratory.

Molecular biology techniques

DNA molecular techniques have been recycled in wildlife forensic investigation worry with the thieving of animals (mammals, birds, etc.) from national parks and threatened areas in South Korea, Italy, and other countries [34]. Molecular techniques are established to be a more steadfast assessment to other techniques such as anatomy, morphology, serology as well as microscopic. Initially, DNA-based methods utilized were Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA (RAPD), Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism (AFLP), and Random Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP) [35-37].

Infra-Red Techniques

Recently, It has been described that spectroscopies like mid-infrared (mid-IR), near-infrared (NIR), and Raman in mixture with chemometric techniques are highly well-organized to distinguish species and also assistances in the identification of geographical roots of herbal medicines [46, 47]. However, NIR spectroscopy is broadly due to high dependability, low cost, and easy examination of biological evidence such as soil, food, and beverages [48-50].

Inductively Coupled Plasma Atomic Emission Spectroscopy

This a system recycled for the determination of diverse metal ions’ attention in the samples. The metal ions concentration shapes of animal samples generally relate with that of their locale and it becomes the basis of their place of source determination. The bones employed in forensic identification of species are burned, fragmented remainders from fires, and natural disasters [55-58]. If functional features of bones have been injured, histological analysis can be used for diversity [59].

Radioisotopes Tracer Techniques

This technique is used to sense the trace elements in the evidential remnants in wildlife forensic. Radioisotopes are more copious at different locations and the occurrence of those radioisotopes offers information about their most credible origin based on the isotopes profusion maps. Two main types of basics are combined into the body; essential and trace [60].

Limitations of protein marker-based identification

The apoptosis procedure during the hair biogenesis is the major reason overdue the poor DNA removal from hair. In the biogenesis procedure of hair, most of the DNA dishonored and only a trace of DNA extracted a Variety of discrimination also has not been recognized to date.


Wildlife forensic science can be used to track and identify criminals by the use of evidentiary analysis whether it be DNA or trace evidence such as hair or feather. Animal tracks classification of animal products or imported, exported, or traded goods or the simple recognition of demonstrative evidence. These items are overlooked or ignored or they are improperly assessed. Courts are relying more on the irrefutable evidence. Education and instruction into proper crime scene processing, recognition, and important case factors and what to do with the evidence once it is identified are vital or those whose job it is to fight these types of crimes many of whom have limited training or experience. Wildlife forensic.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the limitations of forensic science?
  2. What are the techniques used in forensic science?
  3. What are the different types of evidence in a crime scene?
  4. 4.    How are animals used in forensics?
  5. What is the future of forensic science?


1.      Introduction to Veterinary and Comparative Forensic Medicine

2.      Journal of Forensic Science & Criminology Annex Publishers | www.annexpublishers.com Volume 5 | Issue 4 References 1. Cooper JE, Cooper ME (2008) Introduction to veterinary and comparative forensic medicine. Blackwell, Oxford.

3.       Sahajpal V, Goyal SP, Raza R, Jayapal R (2009) Identification of mongoose (genus: Herpestes) species from hair through band pattern studies using discriminate functional analysis (DFA) and microscopic examination. Sci Justice 49: 205-9. 2. Lawton MPC, Cooper JE (2009) Wildlife crime scene visits. Appl Herpetol 6: 29-45.

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