Evidence from animal DNA initiative helps prosecute wildlife criminals

Scotland’s Wildlife DNA Forensic Unit - based at SASA - has had its first wildlife crime case come to court, resulting in a guilty plea from the accused.

The recently-opened Wildlife DNA Forensic Unit specialises in analysing animal DNA evidence seized in the course of wildlife crime investigation. It is the first dedicated wildlife DNA forensic testing facility in Europe, analysing all sorts of items for species identification, sexing and individual matching.

Those prosecuted through the evidence of the unit were found at badger set on the Clyde Walkway in February with nets, dogs with radio collars, and spades, claiming only to have been hunting rabbits. However, DNA analysis from mouth-swabs taken from the dogs revealed the presence of fox DNA, and this evidence helped secure a guilty plea to hunting foxes with dogs.

Scottish police forces and the SSPCA can receive analysis free of charge for wildlife crime cases thanks to collaboration between TRACE Wildlife Forensics Network and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland resulting in funding from PAW Scotland, administered by SNH.

For further information about the unit, see http://www.sasa.gov.uk/wildlife-environment/wildlife-crime, or email wildlifeforensics@sasa.gsi.gov.uk.