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;

- Guidelines on methods and procedures for timber identification and laboratory analysis.


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".


Guidelines on methods and procedures for timber identification and laboratory analysis

Illegal logging and the international trade in illegally logged timber is a major problem, especially for forest-rich countries in the developing world. An INTERPOL and UN Environment Programme Report published in 2012 estimated illegal logging, including processing, to be worth between US $30 to 100 billion globally. [1] It is estimated that more than 100 million cubic metres of timber are harvested illegally each year, with most illegal activities in Brazilian Amazon, Cameroon, Ghana, Indonesia and Malaysia. [2]

UNODC, in close cooperation with ICCWC partners, is coordinating the development of Guidelines on methods and procedures of timber identification and laboratory analysis. It is expected that the development of these guidelines will help tackle the problems of illegal logging, mislabelling of timber species, and smuggling of wood products. Forensic analysis of timber can provide robust results including the identification of the species, age and geographical provenance of the timber sample. This information is also essential to design efficient law enforcement responses.

UNODC is organizing an Expert Group Meeting from 10 - 12 December to be held in Vienna, where relevant experts will discuss the role of forensic science in addressing illegal logging, the strengths and weaknesses of different forensic methods, as well as basic requirements for collecting, securing and using evidence through the chain of custody.

To obtain more information about the above guidelines please contact us.

[1] Interpol and UN Environment Programme, Green Carbon, Black Trade: Illegal Logging, Tax Fraud and Laundering in the World's Tropical Forests