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Archive for the 'wildlife forensics' Category

Kevin Bewick, head of the Anti-Poaching Intelligence Group of Southern Africa (APIGSA), provides his perspective on the fight against wildlife crime. His group undertakes investigations and focuses on intelligence gathering and research into wildlife poaching and trafficking.

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Iain Douglas-Hamilton reflects on a lifetime studying elephants and discusses the current surge in ivory poaching.

At age 23, Iain Douglas-Hamilton pioneered the first in-depth scientific study of elephant social behavior in Tanzania's Lake Manyara National Park. During the 1970s he investigated the status of elephants throughout Africa and was the first to alert the world to the ivory poaching holocaust. He and his wife have co-authored two award-winning books and have made numerous television films. In 1993, he founded Save the Elephants, a Kenyan conservation organization dedicated specifically to elephants. In 2010, he was named the recipient of the prestigious Indianapolis Prize, in recognition for his lifetime achievements.

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Carbofuran was developed in the 1960s to replace more persistent pesticides such as DDT. Since then it has repeatedly been implicated in the mass mortality of nontarget wildlife, especially avian species. Conservationists worldwide have sought to regulate or ban the use of carbofuran for decades. However, this controversial product remains registered for use in a number of developed and developing nations. Its use in the United States has fueld an ongoing regulatory battle between the US Environmental Protection Agency and various lobby groups. Several significant obstacles, including flawed field study designs, lack of analytical capacity and a dearth of forensic evidence to support anecdotal reports have all contributed to carbofuran's remarkable staying power.

This presentation on carbofuran was made by Ngaio Richards at the Society of Wildlife Forensic Science's first triennial meeting in May 2012. It highlights key points and advances from the recently published book, Carbofuran and Wildlife Poisoning: Global Perspectives and Forensic Approaches.

Ngaio Richards is a Canine Field Specialist with Working Dogs for Conservation. She is a forensic ecologist and conservationist ans has authored numerous papers on wildlife monitoring and conservation.

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The Rhino DNA Index System (RhODIS) is a secure database containing DNA profile data of individual rhinoceros. The extraction method has been optimized and is now used to individually identify rhinoceros horns from stockpiles and to link recovered horns to poaching cases. The information contained in this database has assisted in a number of convictions in South Africa and also one in the United Kingdom. This podcast contains a presentation on the Rhino DNA Index System that was made at the Society of Wildlife Forensic Science’s first triennial meeting in May 2012 by Cindy Harper, Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

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Craig Pittman, St. Petersburg Times environmental reporter and author of Manatee Insanity: Inside the War Over Florida's Most Famous Endangered Species, discusses manatees and the struggle to protect this endangered marine mammal. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme why manatees are so beloved and why these homely creatures are a flashpoint for Florida’s environmental debates. Did you know early sailors mistook manatees for mermaids? Or that the closest relative of the manatee on the evolutionary scale is the elephant?

Craig Pittman is an environment reporter for Florida’s largest newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times. Born in Pensacola, Craig graduated from Troy State University in Alabama, where his muckraking work for the student paper prompted an agitated dean to label him "the most destructive force on campus." Since then he has covered a variety of newspaper beats and quite a few natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and the Florida Legislature. Since 1998 he has reported on environmental issues for the St. Petersburg Times, and in 2004 won the Waldo Proffitt Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism in Florida for revealing a secret plan by the state's business leaders to transfer water from sleepy North Florida to booming South Florida. The stories caused such an uproar that Gov. Jeb Bush scuttled the plan. In 2006, he won the Kevin Carmody Award for Outstanding Investigative Reporting from the Society of Environmental Journalists and also the Proffitt award (with Matthew Waite) for the series "Vanishing Wetlands," which found that federal and state wetland protection programs were a sham that enabled development to wipe out swamps and marshes. He and Waite shared a second Proffitt Award and a second Carmody Award in 2007 for a series called "When Dry is Wet" that exposed the flaws in the wetland mitigation banking industry. That led to their book, Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss. Manatee Insanity: Inside the War Over Florida's Most Famous Endangered Species, published by the University Press of Florida, is Craig's second book. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on December 6, 2010.

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US Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Sheila O’Connor reveals what it takes to work in wildlife law enforcement. In the second of a two-part interview, Special Agent O’Connor tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme about the specialized training officers go through. (Part I last week focused on her adventures stopping wildlife crime—from tarantulas to tigers.)

Special Agent O’Connor is a veteran wildlife law enforcement officer, with over 20 years of service under belt. She began her career in wildlife law enforcement as a Conservation Police Officer for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, where she served for eight years. She then moved to federal wildlife law enforcement with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, where she was first posted to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and then to St. Paul, Minnesota. During that time, she investigated several cases that led to felony convictions for violations of wildlife laws. She was recently promoted to be a training officer at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (also known as FLETC) in Georgia. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on November 8, 2010.

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Marcy Heacker, a wildlife forensic scientist at the Smithsonian Institution’s Feather Identification Lab in Washington, DC, discusses wildlife forensics, bird strikes and feather identification. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how her analysis helps airports manage wildlife to enhance airline safety and also talks about how she and the other forensic scientists at the lab helped analyze the crash of US Airways flight 1549, the Miracle on the Hudson. While typically the result is not as catastrophic, birds and other wildlife strikes to aircraft annually cause over $600 million in damage to U.S. civil and military aviation each year. The Smithsonian’s Feather Identification Lab identify the species involved and thus help airport biologists manage the habitats in such a way so as to discourage wildlife from congregating in the area. While the methods vary depending on each unique situation, it works. For example, New York’s JFK International Airport reduced gull strikes by roughly 80 percent using tactics such as grass management, eliminating standing water, and frightening birds with pyrotechnics. All that is possible once you know the species you’re dealing with, and Marcy is a part of that. Marcy Heacker is a research assistant with the Smithsonian Institution’s Feather Identification Lab in Washington, DC. She received her Master’s of Science and Bachelor’s of Science in Biology from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She also holds an Associates Degree in Veterinary Technology from Columbus State College in Columbus, Ohio. The main focus of Marcy's work is in avian species identification from microscopic and whole-feather characters. This specialized work in wildlife forensics is particularly important for aviation industry personnel that deal with civil and military bird strikes. This feather identification service has led to collaborations with scientists in the fields of aviation safety, wildlife biology, anthropology, and law enforcement. Marcy's current research is on the feather microstructure of the ducks, geese, and swans. The lab's work has been featured in numerous scientific papers and the media, including Discovery, National Public Radio, Smithsonian magazine and Audubon magazine, among others.  This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on August 9, 2010.

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Michael Gonzalez discusses wildlife forensics and mammal hair. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how hair varies—between species and even on the same animal—and how he is developing a database of mammal hair that can be used by wildlife forensic scientists to identify hair in cases of illegal trafficking of the world’s most endangered animals. Michael Gonzalez is a forensic science master’s student at California State University in Fresno. Under the direction of his faculty mentor, Dr. Kevin Miller, assistant professor of chemistry and criminology at Fresno State and director of the Forensic Science master’s program, Gonzalez began creating and compiling the database from hair specimens found in the collection of Fresno State’s Biology Department. This work quickly spread to include eight different body regions of each animal and is being conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon. This internet-based database will ultimately hold more than 2,000 mammal species and has already become well known in the professional forensic world, including the prestigious National Institute of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In fact, Gonzalez received the 2010 Wildlife Forensic Science award from the Society for Wildlife Forensic Sciences (SWFS) for outstanding thesis work. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on July 5, 2010.

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Brazilian biologist Juliana Machado Ferreira discusses the illegal wildlife trade in Brazil. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme about the domestic market for pet birds and what role wildlife forensic research can play in helping to expose and stop this trade. She also discusses her genetic research into the DNA of four songbird species and how knowledge of their geographic origin can help with the rehabilitation and release of illegally captured animals. Juliana Machado Ferreira is a passionate Brazilian biologist who seeks to save the world one bird at a time. She is a TED Senior Fellow and is pursuing her doctorate in Conservation Genetics at the Laboratory of Evolutionary Biology and Vertebrate Conservation (LABEC) at São Paulo University. She also works with SOS Fauna. Her current research project involves developing species-specific molecular markers and population genetics studies of four passerine birds, with the aim to understand the distribution of their genetic variability and to track down the origin of birds seized from illegal trade. She works closely with the US National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory, and her ultimate goal is to help set up a Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Brazil.This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on June 21, 2010.

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