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New partnership to use forensic science to tackle wildlife crime

A new partnership between the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Government will use forensic science to tackle wildlife crime.

White-tailed bald eagle in flight

According to a major report by Scottish Natural Heritage, almost one third of golden eagles tracked by satellite have died in suspicious circumstances. Badger baiting, the poaching of deer and hares, and illegal fishing are all problem areas in the UK. There is also a lucrative illegal market in the importation of animals such as reptiles and birds.

To tackle this issue, a new partnership between the Conservation Genetics Unit at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and the Scottish Government's Wildlife DNA Forensics Unit will explore how scientists can best support wildlife crime investigations at home and abroad.

Forensic science plays a key role in investigating illegal trade routes and the poaching of wild animals. It can provide vital evidence that an offence has been committed and help enforcement agencies pursue prosecutions.

There are persistent serial offenders in the UK​​​​​​​. Ultimately, the objective behind this kind of forensic work is about creating a situation where the chances of being caught and prosecuted are so high that we are dissuading people from engaging in the practice.

Dr Rob OgdenHead of the Unit

International collaboration

In a wider global context, it is as important to share best practices as it is to tackle specific incidences of wildlife crime. As part of his work as programme director for the international wildlife forensics network, TRACE, Ogden will now continue to work with genetics labs in Africa and South-East Asia to enable teams to develop their own forensic techniques for wildlife crime enforcement. 

Related links

Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture

One in three tagged golden eagles died ‘suspiciously’ in Scotland (BBC News)

TRACE network