by Jessica Hawe
Today, the teaching theme was ‘wildlife crime and forensic investigation’
We started with an informative lecture from Dr S.P. Goyal covering all things ‘illegal wildlife trade’, from legislation and evidence analysis to identifying species from which seized items may have originated and establishing whether items are real or fake. It was an amazing insight into the challenges authorities face and the extent of the work that is going in to dealing with wildlife offences, creating information repositories and trying to build cases for prosecution.
We then moved onto a practical exercise with Mr C.P Sharma where we examined real seized items from various species and cases. We were shown the common pitfalls of criminals creating fraudulent items and how to identify them using some examples that had also been seized.
We covered multiple species from rhino horn, ivory, claws, shatoosh wool, teeth and many more. There were also striking pelts from a tiger, crocodile and clouded leopard to name a few. The teaching was so interactive it really gave us a sense of what it would be like to examine the authenticity of a seized item.
Finally, we split up into groups to complete a field-based mock forensic investigation of a crime scene. Each group had a different scenario and there was a shared site that we also could investigate. We arrived at the location to find crime scene tape demarcating our zones, access to sampling kits, metal detectors and seized items to replicate a crime. Our group had a mock leopard poaching with a poacher armed and still present at the scene, it was a brilliant way to learn how to strategically approach a crime scene, locate, appropriately sample and document evidence present and create a proposed story for presentation in court.
It really was such an interesting day and the practicals put all of the teaching in perspective. It was a topic that I already had a great interest in but I learnt so much over the course of the day it was great fun!