A new state-of-the-art forensic academy in SA aims to train investigators to collect and analyze evidence from wildlife crime scenes.
The Wildlife Forensic Academy (WFA) was established at the Buffelsfontein Conservation Area at the West Coast of the Western Cape on Friday as a weapon in the fight against wildlife crime.
The academy aims to provide forensic knowledge, awareness and training for game wardens, wildlife forensics students, wildlife veterinary students, conservation students and ecology students.
Dr . Greg Simpson, director and co-founder of the WFA, said most crime scenes were walked on, trampled on and contaminated by wild animals, destroying important evidence that could help bring strong charges against suspects and the organized crime syndicates, fueling the illegal wildlife trade and poaching.
“One has to understand that in most cases poaching is linked to organized crime. Using forensic evidence to support a criminal case can help combat poaching by increasing the number of law enforcement agencies, disrupting the financial chain and reducing repetitive crimes.
“Killing, poaching or abuse of animals takes place in many cases in remote areas or in hidden places. For this reason, there are never testimonies. We can only solve these cases with forensic evidence. Therefore we need to mobilize forensic knowledge and techniques.”
The training would include collecting and analyzing evidence such as human traces, non-human traces, chemical traces, physical traces and digital traces.
“We are able to detect, collect and analyze these clues to solve and prevent crime,” Simpson said.
Forensic intelligence would use datasets to better understand what nature reserves are facing are.
“Efficient anti-poaching operations depend heavily on ranger patrols. However, nature reserves are very large and floors are comparatively rare. The question is, how can we help the rangers outwit the poachers?
“One of the answers is to make better use of data. Even in the most remote wildlife sanctuaries, gigabytes of data are generated by rangers, animal trackers, wildlife cameras, aerial photographs, and satellites. This is happening with increasing volumes, variants and speeds.”
The Data Science for Nature Conservation training course teaches participants how to use different data sources to understand the dynamics of the terrain and the ways better understand how poachers use it.
“Signs of criminal activity combined with knowledge of what is happening are used to make predictions. These can be used to predict wildlife crimes and give rangers an advantage. By being in the right place at the right time with the right team, poachers are not only disrupted and caught in the act, but also deterred when the odds of being caught become too high.”
Forensic Intelligence is also a powerful way to link forensic evidence from one wildlife crime scene to another.
“Links, spatiotemporal patterns and trends are used to alert criminal investigators to the dangers in the right one.” direction, narrowing the window of opportunity and closing the net to poachers,” Simpson said.
WFA CEO and founder Andro Vos said that in many cases the details of a crime were not understood.< /p>< p>“The crime scene is entered and destroyed, with evidence accidentally altered due to a lack of forensic investigation. This results in scant evidence and in many cases criminals and syndicates evade prosecution, inevitably leading to uncontrolled and escalating crime.
“In South Africa and many parts of Africa, wildlife is one of our national treasures that are enormous Generate revenue, create jobs and help strengthen communities, and we must do everything in our power to protect and preserve our natural heritage. We believe the Wildlife Forensic Academy is a crucial tool in this fight,” he said.
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