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Animal CSI

In May 2022, Dutch forensics expert Andro Vos launched the Wildlife Crime Forensics Academy, a first-of-its-kind institution that seeks to equip rangers and other environmental law enforcement officers with the skills needed to collect the vital forensic evidence required to convict poachers in court.

Currently, just a small fraction of wildlife crime cases make it to court, either because no suspect was identified or because of a lack of evidence. Wildlife crimes often take place without witnesses, making forensic evidence particularly crucial. Yet few rangers are trained to identify, collect and catalogue such evidence, or to present it effectively in court.

The founders of the Wildlife Crime Forensics Academy, which is based on a private game reserve to the north of Cape Town, South Africa, hope that by using ultra-realistic fake crime scenes they can help train and inspire a new generation of wildlife crime forensics experts and significantly boost conviction rates in poaching cases. 

The academy aims to train its students in every step of the process, from the discovery of a crime scene to the conviction of the poacher. Among its facilities is a laboratory for the chemical analysis of evidence and a courtroom where students can get a feel for what it is like to present evidence at a trial and undergo cross-examination. 

The illegal wildlife trade is thought to be worth as much as $20 billion per year.
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