Breakthrough in forensics to hand investigators a new tool in fight against wildlife crime

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 20 April 2018 in News

With illegal traps often placed in remote locations, investigators have previously struggled to collect evidence of wrong doing

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A breakthrough in retrieving human DNA could hand investigators a new tool in the fight against wildlife crime, according to new research.

With illegal traps often placed in remote locations, investigators have previously struggled to collect evidence of wrong doing.

But, according to the study, new techniques could allowing investigators to retrieve DNA from items exposed to the elements.

Steven Ferguson, lead forensic scientist at the Scottish Police Authority’s Forensic Services, said: “The research undertaken by PAW has demonstrated that these same techniques, used in crimes ranging from housebreaking to murder, can also be used to identify those involved in persecuting birds of prey.”

The study, initiated by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland and carried out by the SPA Forensic Services, the Scottish Government and the University of Strathclyde, found DNA can be traced on traps that have been outside for at least 10 days, and from rabbit baits and bird carcasses at crime scenes after at least 24 hours.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Poisoning, trapping and shooting are all methods used to illegally target birds of prey, however investigations can often be hampered by a lack of evidence.

“This new research will unlock the potential of using DNA profiles to track criminals and could play a crucial role in helping secure convictions for wildlife crime.

“We continue to prioritise wildlife crime and are working to develop new ways to protect our precious birds of prey, including through a new wildlife crime detective post at Police Scotland HQ and a new team of special constables to tackle rural crime in the Cairngorms National Park.”

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