Wildlife forensics

It is essential that forensic applications be used to the fullest extent possible to combat illegal trade in wildlife, as is emphasized in a number of CITES Resolutions and Decisions. In tackling illegal trade in wildlife, investigative questions may relate to both the identification of perpetrators involved, and the identification of the wildlife specimens found. The former is the subject of traditional forensic analyses, such as human DNA profiling or ballistics, while the latter is the subject of wildlife forensics. Although these categorizations are not entirely fixed within the forensic community, they are generally considered as the best rule of thumb. In the case of CITES implementation and enforcement, the investigative questions to address in relation to the identification of animals and plants, or their parts and derivatives, can generally be categorized into five groups, concerning:

  1. the species involved;
  2. the geographic origin of a specimen;
  3. the wild or captive/cultivated source of a specimen;
  4. the individual origin of a specimen;
  5. the age of a specimen.

Within these five categories of investigative questions, there are a wide range of specific enforcement needs, some of which can be addressed using generic wildlife forensic methods, others that require a much more specialist approach. 

Tools and Resources


Other tools and resources


ICCWC resources:

    Ivory ID:

    • Ivory ID contains more than 700 reference samples from 30 African countries using data obtained from elephant ivory, with proven origin, provided by countries of origin, museums and others. It was developed as a tool to assist Parties in determining the age and origin of ivory, through isotope analysis. Ivory ID include contact information of certified laboratories that conduct isotope analyses