Time: Investigating Animal Crimes
“Some animal products (such as rhino horn and bear gall bladders) are literally worth more than gold.”- This is a startling reality revealed within a new article on Time.com; The article is a semi-news report/interview with Dr. Laurel Neme, author of the book Animal Investigators.
Dr. Neme brings up a good point within the article, many crime labs have trouble solving human crimes; so how can they begin to try to solve animal crimes such as poaching? Only one lab seems to have the answer- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Lab in Ashland, Oregon; the only lab in the U.S. that deals with illegal crimes involving animals. This is a harsh reality that shows us how so many poachers get away with the crimes they commit.
Dr. Neme also points out that most people don’t realize that they are buying goods that may have came out of illegal poaching enterprises.
“That’s exactly it. People know it’s happening, the way they know that illegal drugs are also being smuggled, but when you don’t see it you can’t recognize the impact. You can easily support [illegal wildlife trade] unknowingly. You’re on vacation, you see something and it’s a beautiful piece. It’s in a museum shop and they’re selling it, it must be legal, right? You don’t really know.”
We come from a nation where most things sold within shops and stores is legal and has been approved for sale to the public. However, when traveling out of the U.S. the regulations that give us comfort when shopping at home are absent. Many pieces of jewelry and other souvenirs sold within shops around the world are made possible by the illegal actions of poachers who kill the animals for the products.
“I never realized how hard it can be to catch the criminals. I just assumed that airport authorities would open a container and go, “Yep, that’s tiger.” But then you talk about bear gall bladders being ground into medicine…”
As I mentioned in a much earlier blog discussing what poaching actuallyis, there is a fine line between what can be legal and illegal to hunt. Bringing goods from animals through customs around the world is an activity that is difficult to monitor. It is impossible for a worker to know what is illegal in what parts of the world, and the circumstances behind it for each species. This complication of matters allows the illegal trafficking of animal goods to earn up to $20 million a year; a sad, yet true reality.
Link to the right