By Robin Sax
I have spent years advocating on behalf of victims and women. A big driving force behind my work has been giving voice to the voiceless, being the support for the vulnerable and empowering people who have lost their power to an abuser or abusive system. It’s easy to get people to rally behind you when you show a picture of a child or a human. But this week’s episode on TechKnow about the illegal trafficking of endangered animals was a wake up call. Trafficking is not just a word reserved for human beings. It’s not just about sex and slavery. It’s about animals too.
As our Techknow contributor, Marita Davison, points out, “Illegal trade in wildlife is a big global business—worth at least 19 BILLION dollars a year. That makes it the 4th largest criminal industry in the world right behind drugs, counterfeiting, and human trafficking. It’s been connected to organized crime, militant groups, and even Al Qaeda.”
Despite the alarming statistics and the gravity of the problem, there is hope. How can I have hope, you wonder? How can you have hope when the Chief of Environmental Crimes, of the US Attorneys Office Joseph Johns, says that a trafficker of drugs will definitely go to prison but that, historically, a trafficker of endangered species would typically only get a slap on the wrist?
While endangered animals do not nearly get the publicity that trafficked children or huge drug dealers get, I see the shift that occurred in my area of specialty, sex crimes. In the last 20 years, sexual assault prosecution and investigation have made major strides due to the use of multidisplinary teams. Investigations are conducted by various professionals (law enforcement, prosecutors, forensic interviews, social workers etc.) representing a variety of fields with diverse expertise, all with the common goal of protecting the victim and prosecuting the “bad guy.”
In the world of trafficking endangered species, there seems to be a similar model at work. The US Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory is a place where geneticists, pathologists, and morphologists specialize in wildlife forensics.
They are tasked with helping to solve the crimes affecting the most vulnerable among us – endangered species. Like sex crimes, they are working in a team environment with a collaborative approach. This team is lead by Ken Goddard, who comes from a traditional crime/CSI background where he has worked rape, homicide, and robbery cases. No doubt he has taken the best investigative techniques and applied them to solving these heinous crimes against animals.
If you think you can only get your crime fix on Dateline or 48 Hours, join Techknow on Saturday, November 8, 2014, as we sleuth with Ken Goddard and his team, the lab affectionately known “wildlife's Scotland Yard.”