More than 30 professionals from Europe, the Middle East and North Africa recently specialized in the forensic and police investigation of wildlife crime to improve investigation and prosecution results in their respective countries after participating in the Level 2 Advanced Course of the Wildlife Crime Academy.
Wildlife crimes like poisoning and poaching can disrupt natural ecosystems, destroy habitats and even drive species to extinction. But the impact of wildlife exploitation can be felt further in every aspect of human life, jeopardizing the security and livelihood of local communities, and even threatening public health. Yet, despite the adverse consequences of wildlife crime, such incidents are rarely taken seriously or prosecuted, which enables offenders to act with impunity.
In the region of Andalusia in Spain, however, this is not the case. For about 20 years now, the competent authorities of the Junta de Andalucía have been treating wildlife crime just like any other serious crime.
“In Andalusia, the problem of poisoning was out of control. Since we started conducting proper CSI, forensic analysis and court procedures to convict wildlife crime offenders, illegal poisoning incidents dropped by 80%.”– Iñigo Fajardo, Head of the scavenging birds task force of the Junta de Andalucía
The results speak for themselves – they prove that effective investigation and prosecution procedures can combat wildlife crime. This is why the Junta de Andalucía and the Vulture Conservation Foundation developed the Wildlife Crime Academy. Through this initiative, they transfer the Spanish best-practice experience to competent professionals from other countries working in conservation, law enforcement and forensic science.
“In the Balkans, only 1% of wildlife poisoning incidents reach court. The Wildlife Crime Academy plays a vital role in raising capacities, changing attitudes and engaging the relevant stakeholders from priority regions to improve their response to wildlife crime incidents.”– Jovan Andevski, Programmes Manager of the Vulture Conservation Foundation
The Wildlife Crime Academy integrates a multidisciplinary approach with three levels of qualification and covers most aspects of crime investigation – forensic entomology, ballistics, CSI, forensics, genetics and toxicology, crime analysis and court procedures. The first course achieved real engagement and provided the fundamental skills to investigate wildlife crime, from the early action and CSI to the final procedures at the Court.
Last week, the second cohort reunited in Cazorla for the Level 2 Advanced Course of the Wildlife Crime Academy. During this training, participants split up to acquire advanced specializations in their fields of expertise relating to forensics and law enforcement. The next step is the Level 3 Supreme Course. Only selected participants from both cohorts will continue with this training, which will take place early next year and focus on wildlife crime analysis and intelligence.
The Wildlife Crime Academy (Level 2 Advanced Course – second cohort) is financed by the European Commission’s LIFE Programme (mainly through BalkanDetox LIFE project – LIFE19 GIE/NL/001016, and with contribution from LIFE with Vultures – LIFE18 NAT/CY/001018 (for Cypriot participants) and LIFE Safe for Vultures – LIFE19 NAT/IT/000732 (for Sardinian participants). Other financiers include the MAVA Foundation, Euronatur, the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) and BirdLife International (for Egyptian, Lebanese and Moroccan participants). The Wildlife Crime Academy is organized by the VCF, the Spanish Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (Ministerio para la Transición Ecológica y el Reto Demográfico) and the Regional Government of Andalusia (Junta de Andalucía), which is making a significant investment for all participants to join the WCA. A big thank you also goes to the Municipality of Cazorla for their support.