The transnational and organized nature of wildlife and forest crime necessitates a common and coordinated global response. The International Community has recognized the severity of the of the problem of global biodiversity loss and degradation of ecosystems as is reflected in recent resolutions and decisions. The Conference of the Parties to CITES at its 16 th meeting (CoP16, Bangkok, 2013), adopted a number of strategic and operational decisions on enforcement matters that provide a strong basis for Parties to take concrete action to put an end to the current high levels of illegal wildlife trade, and encourage the increased use of forensic technology to fight wildlife crime.  Additionally, 170 governments voted unanimously to bring hundreds of new timber species under CITES control in order to ensure legal, sustainable and traceable trade in timber and forest products.

Building upon this political momentum, UNODC, as a member of ICCWC, was given the lead for the development of guidelines to address the challenges posed by the illicit trade in ivory and timber and to provide support to law enforcement operations through the use of forensic technology and laboratory data.

- Guidelines on methods and procedures for ivory sampling and laboratory analysis;

-  Best practice guide for forensic timber identification


Guidelines on Methods and Procedures for Ivory Sampling and Laboratory Analysis

Elephant poaching remains at critical levels in Africa, and continues to exceed the natural elephant population growth rates. This rapidly growing transnational organized crime threatens national security, the rule of law, and economic and social development. The International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) released 'Guidelines on Methods and Procedures for Ivory Sampling and Laboratory Analysis' in support of the deployment of forensic technology to combat elephant poaching. Led by UNODC, as a member of ICCWC, the  Guidelines were developed together with experts from around the world.

"We believe that the use of the Guidelines will support more timely, thorough and effective investigations, resulting in an increased number of successful prosecutions and a reduction in this illegal trade" said UNODC's Executive Director Yury Fedotov.

Intended for worldwide use, the Guidelines are aimed at first responders, investigators, law enforcement officials, forensic scientists, prosecutors and the judiciary. Their purpose is to facilitate the use of forensic science to the fullest extent possible in order to combat wildlife crime, and in particular, to combat the trade in illegal ivory through the provision of guidance to support transnational criminal investigations and law enforcement operations.

The CITES Secretary-General John E. Scanlon stated that "it is vital that law enforcement authorities deploy all tools available to them to help combat wildlife crime. The Guidelines will help increase the use of forensic technology, a crucial tool in the fight against wildlife crime, to determine the origin of seized wildlife specimens, and support the identification and arrest of suspects".               

"Fully in line with the commitment of the Customs community to combat the illegal trade in wildlife, these guidelines provide law enforcement agencies with first-class technical information for advancing investigations and prosecutions, which will in turn positively impact deterrence, " said WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya.

Davyth Stewart, Criminal Intelligence Officer with INTERPOL's Environmental Security Unit, explained that "these guidelines cover the whole chain of custody, from supporting law enforcement officers on the ground with collecting samples for forensic analysis and crime scene management, to laboratory analysis, interpretation of results and data handling. This is crucial for building the evidence base to prevent and combat ivory trafficking and a step forward in advancing law enforcement actions against illegal elephant poaching".


Best Practice Guide for Forensic Timber Identification

Illegal logging and the illegal timber trade are major problems domestically and internationally, threatening not just individual species, but entire ecosystems. The negative impacts are diverse, causing untold environmental, social and economic damage.

From the initial 18 tree species listed in the CITES appendices in 1975, today more than 600 tree species are listed with over 400 used for their timber. One of the most challenging issues in the implementation of CITES is the definitive identification of specimens found in trade, which is required to demonstrate whether the activity is legal or illegal. For law enforcement authorities, identification is a necessary action that proves to be at the front-line of the global legal and illegal trade in timber.

Through an expert consultative process funded by the World Bank, UNODC led the development of a ' Best Practice Guide for Forensic Timber Identification' . Forensic analysis of timber can provide robust results including the identification of the species, age and geographical provenance of the timber sample. It is expected that the development of this guide will help tackle the problems of illegal logging, mislabelling of timber species, and smuggling of wood products.

Following a similar format to the Ivory Guidelines, the Timber Guide covers the whole chain of events, providing information on best practices and procedures from the crime scene to the court room, with the aim of facilitating the employment of forensic science to the fullest extent possible to identify timber and combat timber crime. The target audience ranges from front-line officers, crime scene investigators, law enforcement officials, scientists, prosecutors and the judiciary.  The Timber Guide explores options for further development of forensic best practices to provide evidence-based information, support law enforcement investigations and lead to successful prosecutions.