Science helps bring Alberta poachers to justice
It seems like everyone with a TV knows about the “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” show. Shows like this have shone a light on the forensic investigation techniques used by police agencies, but what about agencies with a different mandate, like Alberta’s fish and wildlife enforcement branch? Do they use forensic investigation?
Just as a hair left behind by a burglar can be matched to a suspect through DNA analysis, the fish and wildlife enforcement branch’s forensic unit can match the DNA from a bear claw or a set of antlers to a carcass wastefully abandoned by poachers. Lab staff analyze 400 to 600 such exhibits every year.
However, their work doesn’t begin and end with DNA analysis. They also conduct post-mortem examinations, aid in the execution of search warrants, and train fish and wildlife officers on collecting evidence at wildlife crime scenes.
The lab is one of just a few worldwide dedicated solely to supporting fish and wildlife crime investigations. The forensic unit was established in 1978, and continues to be a leader in this field. The manager of the unit, Rick Jobin, was recently invited by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to participate in a conference and help develop standards for sampling and analysis in ivory poaching investigations.
Catching criminals is no easy task, but the work done at this lab helps provide the evidence needed to bring poachers to justice. In fact, the evidence provided by the forensic unit is often so strong that suspects will enter guilty pleas rather than argue their case, which saves valuable court time.
So, the next time you see “CSI” on TV, remember that Alberta’s skilled and hard-working fish and wildlife officers use the same kinds of equipment and forensic techniques for ‘animal CSI.’