Policing on the wild side

Policing on the wild side

I’ve just returned from a weekend conference for wildlife law enforcers across the UK, which the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) helped support. The aim was to bring together Police Wildlife Crime Officers, Border Force officers and even Trading Standards staff, as well as some key NGOs which are trying to stop the illegal wildlife trade. 

The conference was a great opportunity for IFAW to present our fantastic new ivory fingerprinting kit, which was researched and developed by the forensic teams at the Metropolitan Police and King’s College London. The kit enables enforcers to retrieve fingerprints from an ivory tusk for up to 28 days, making it easier to catch criminals involved in handling these illegal goods.

As part of the presentation I persuaded the Chief Constable of North Yorkshire to come up on stage and have his fingerprints taken. Considering I have only had basic training, the thought of demonstrating my fingerprinting technique to a room full of police officers was quite daunting! The good news is that I was able to get a great set of prints from the Chief Constable and highlight how this kit has already been deployed by the Kenyan Wildlife Service. I also presented two kits to Border Force and one to the Head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, Chief Inspector Martin Sims. 

I ended up demonstrating the kit for nearly four hours with police officers queuing up to have their fingerprints taken. I also had help from a member of the Metropolitan Police forensic team, who was very complimentary about my fingerprinting technique and the quality of the prints I retrieved from the ivory.   

Jointly with the League Against Cruel Sports, IFAW also sponsored a law enforcement workshop on trail hunting, which is widely used as a false alibi by hunts engaged in cruel and illegal hunting with hounds. This event was really well attended by delegates and featured evidence from the IFAW report “Trail of Lies.” It also showed how police forces could detect illegal activities and take forward prosecutions under the Hunting Act. 

IFAW also sponsored a law enforcement workshop on trail hunting

The event had many speakers from police forces, Border Force, wildlife charities and from the National Wildlife Crime Unit who gave a fascinating presentation and reviewed the major cases of the last 12 months. 

It was an excellent conference to showcase our work to protect vulnerable wildlife from illegal trade or hunting with hounds, as well as helping build strong relationships across the law enforcement sector from police forces in Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, Exeter and London all the way through to Scotland and Northern Ireland.  We have now had requests for more fingerprinting kits from the Metropolitan Police Wildlife Crime Unit, Police Service of Northern Ireland, Hampshire and Sussex Constabulary to help them gather the evidence needed to catch and prosecute wildlife criminals. 

--DC 

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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