Science and Sleuthing: Improving CITES Enforcement Through Innovations in Wildlife Forensic Technology

Date01 July 2017
Science and Sleuthing:
Improving CITES Enforcement
Through Innovations in Wildlife
Forensic Technology
by Victoria Bogdan Tejeda
Victoria Bogdan Tejeda graduated from the University of California Davis School of Law in 2017 with
a concentration in environmental law. Prior to law school, she consulted for environmental nonprot
organizations and co-founded the citizen science and technology group Nerds for Nature.
     
      
—John Scanlon1
In 1892, detective Sherlock Holmes examined evidence
of “poison fangs” in a homicide investigation.2 is wa s
one of the rst instances of wildlife evidence and scien-
tic analysis being used in ction.3 e character’s creator,
Sir Art hur Conan Doyle, continued in subsequent novels
to advocate for applying early forms of forensic science to
legal matters.4 He wrote about detectives analyzing blood
residue, ngerprints, and handwriting.5 Shortly thereafter,
Dr. Edmond Locard, a real-life pioneer in the eld, became
known as the “Sherlock Holmes of France.6
Forensic science has grown substantially since that time.
Now, the multidisciplinary practice —encompassing DNA
mapping, spectrometer a nalysis, toxicology, a nd radiocar-
bon d ating, among other techniques—is widely used by
1. Statement by John Scanlon, Secretary-General, CITES to 79th Interpol
General Assembly (Nov. 8, 2010),
2. Video: Wildlife Forensics—An Evolving Tool for Combating Wildlife
Crime (World Wildlife Fund 2012) [hereinafter Wildlife Forensics—
An Evolving Tool] (quoting S A C D, T
A   S B (1892)),
3. Id.
4. James O’Brien, Encyclodpaedia Britannica, Sherlock Holmes: Pioneer in
Forensic Science,
Pioneer-in-Forensic-Science-1976713 (last updated Mar. 31, 2014).
5. Id.
6. e Forensics Library, Edmond Locard,
edmond-locard/ (last visited May 12, 2017).
law enforcement and accepted in courts.7 e United States
set up its rst forensic crime laboratory in 1932.8 Adapting
the science for use on wildlife crimes only came about more
recently.9 e United States’ rst wildlife forensic labora-
tory opened in 1989.10
Wildlife forensic science grew, in part, out of aware-
ness that extinction loomed for thousands of plants and
animals.11 New laws, such as the Endangered Species Act
(ESA) of 1973,12 led scientists working in traditional foren-
sic labs to investigate injuries and killings of animals.13
Alarm over species depletion grew around the g lobe
as well. In 1975, 80 countries entered into the Conven-
tion on International Trade in Endangered Specie s of
7. U N O  D  C, A R  W
F S  L C  S 
I  E  CITES 2 (2016) [hereinafter
UNODC C R], available at
8. Stephanie Watson, How Stu Works Science, How Forensic Lab Techniques
, http://science.howstu
technique1.htm (last visited May 12, 2017).
9. Michele Berger,   
Detectives, W C, Feb. 6, 2015,
animalforensics; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory, Science
, (last updated Aug. 30,
2012). While “wildlife” generally connotes animals, when used in forensic
science, it encompasses plants as well.
10. J E. H  J R. W, W F: M
 A 45 (1st ed. 2012).
11. Wildlife Forensics—An Evolving Tool, supra note 2.
12. 16 U.S.C. §§1531-1544; ELR S. ESA §§2-18.
13. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Oce of Law Enforcement, 
Historical Background, (last updated
Feb. 14, 2013). e United States hired its rst biological technician to
inspect wildlife shipments in 1975. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Oce of
Law Enforcement,  , https://www.fws.
gov/le/history-1951-1975.html (last updated Feb. 14, 2013).
Copyright © 2017 Environmental Law Institute®, Washington, DC. Reprinted with permission from ELR®,, 1-800-433-5120.

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