Wildlife Forensics Workshop and Symposium
A New Zealand and Australian Perspective
1-4 February, 2011
Diana Prada, Dr Sylvana Tridico (a forensic scientist from Murdoch University in Perth), Professor John Cooper (a wildlife forensic scientist from Cambridge University), and Dianne Gleeson
Ecogene together with Environmental Science and Research (ESR), the NZ Wildlife Enforcement Group and the NZ centre for Conservation Medicine (NZCCM), facilitated a workshop and symposium to foster exchange of ideas and information on wildlife forensic topics relevant to New Zealand and Australia. The NZCCM at Auckland zoo hosted the hands-on-workshop as well the symposium that followed. Almost 40 scientists, practitioners and students gathered at the NZCCM facilities during 1-4 February, 2011. Participants attending represented a variety of organizations including the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), the Department of Conservation (DOC), the WA Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), Unitec, North Tec, Universities of Auckland, Queensland, Murdoch, Massey and Washington, the Australian Museum and the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RNZSPCA).
The practical workshop (1-2 February) was limited to 19 participants and led by U.K. based forensics experts, John and Margaret Cooper. John E Cooper trained as a veterinary surgeon and is now a specialist pathologist with particular interests in wildlife and exotic species, tropical diseases and comparative medicine. Margaret E Cooper is a lawyer who has made the study of animal and conservation law her special interest. The sessions covered everything from forensic post-mortem techniques to laboratory examinations of live and dead animals, recreating wildlife crime scene recording, and preparing to give evidence in court. Dianne Gleeson (director of Ecogene) demonstrated sample collection techniques for DNA analysis and participants were issued with a DNA collection kit at the end of this exercise.
The symposium (3-4 February) attracted 35 participants and featured talks by both local and international experts including key note speakers Prof. Bruce Weir from the University of Washington and Prof. Adrian Linacre from Flinders University. Prof Weir is a well known biostatistician whose interest lies in all aspects of statistical genetics including those involving forensic science, whilst Prof. Linacre is an expert on non-human DNA typing. The sessions covered case studies from those involved in first response to wildlife crime and those applying DNA and non DNA forensic techniques in such cases. It was also an opportunity to highlight the importance of quality standards, discuss the challenges that this science involves and seed the idea of an Australasian wildlife forensics network. The symposium was highlighted by a back the scenes tour of the Auckland Zoo, where participants had the opportunity to get close to lemurs and giraffes.
The workshop and symposium also raise the profile of wildlife forensics by drawing attention from the media:
- Morning Report (2nd Feb 2011) featured an interview with several of the organisers, including Dianne Gleeson
- The workshop also made it into the national newspapers
- John and Margaret Cooper were interviewed on Close Up about wildlife forensics.
Symposium facilitated by: