High-Tech response to crime
JULIAN RUSH: A state-of-the-art particle accelerator is used to count
the Carbon-14 atoms in the sample. The use of such a high-tech machine
as this against wildlife crime is the result of a new collaboration
between forensic scientists, conservationists, and police and customs.
This accelerator mass spectrometer is normally used to date bones
for archaeologists or rocks for geologists. It’s the first time this
sophisticated carbon-dating technique has been used in a case of
wildlife crime. It brings a new weapon to the fight against an illegal
trade in animal parts and products that some have estimated is worth
more than a billion pounds a year.
DR. ROSS MCEWING, Trade Wildlife Forensics Network: We now are able
to fully enforce the wildlife trade legislation. Before, we weren’t
able to do that. So it opens the door, really, for police to use funds
and to actually go after people who are trading in ivory.
JULIAN RUSH: The dating technique was used in court. Though the
woman accused of illegally trading ivory was acquitted, her defense did
not challenge the science.
HEATHER SOHL, WWF-UK: We still believe that forensic tests such as
the one used in this case are very strong and should be used where
possible in order to help the enforcement authorities to actually stop
these traders. So it won’t stop us from supporting forensic test
development nor in their use by enforcement authorities. It’s a key
step to make sure that in the future there are successful prosecutions.
JULIAN RUSH: This ivory was recovered from poachers in Kenya in
April. Because of the trade in fake antique ivory, the number of
elephants killed is rising again. Conservationists hope now they can
date ivory scientifically and accurately, the forgers will think again
and the elephants will live.