Wildlife forensic laboratory in Viet Nam provides support to law enforcement despite COVID restrictions

<p>IEBR staff examining elephant tusks</p>

IEBR staff examining elephant tusks

Hanoi (Viet Nam), 4 January 2022 - Viet Nam’s wildlife forensic laboratory, based at the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources (IEBR) in Hanoi has undergone considerable change. A limited research laboratory has been transformed into a world class wildlife forensic laboratory thanks to the support provided initially by USAID and more recently by UNODC.

In 2021, the IEBR wildlife laboratory worked on almost 250 criminal cases, representing hundreds of individual samples from high-profile cases related to rhino horns, pangolin scales, elephant ivory, big cats, fish, bear parts, turtles and lion bones.

<p>Laboratory technician conducting analyses on seized samples</p>

Laboratory technician conducting analyses on seized samples

The small team of six dedicated forensic staff worked through pandemic restrictions, including local travel bans, ensuring criminal cases were processed and reported efficiently. The project funded by UNODC and implemented by TRACE Wildlife Forensic Network directly supported 71 criminal cases through a specific quality management system. In July 2021, a cargo shipment sent from Durban, South Africa, was seized by Customs port authorities in Da Nang. The shipment which was declared as wood actually contained 3.1 tons of animal bones, including skulls and 52 horns. Due to Covid-19 restrictions IEBR staff were not allowed to travel to the crime scene to test the seized items, but with the help of a sampling guide from IEBR Customs officers were able to take one bone from each bag and extract a sample of each horn which were then sent to IEBR for analysis.

Regional technical support specialist, Kelly Morgan from TRACE Wildlife Forensic Network, said “it’s been a challenging 2 years, but the transformation is incredible to witness”. The laboratory is currently undergoing an audit by the US-based Society of Wildlife Forensic Science to ensure that the work practices are consistent with international standards.

<p>IEBR staff and Ms. Morgan working on a skull recently delivered to the laboratory</p>

IEBR staff and Ms. Morgan working on a skull recently delivered to the laboratory

Announcing continued funding until September 2022, Giovanni Broussard, Regional Coordinator for the UNODC Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime, remarked, “despite the continuous challenges the Viet Nam laboratory has continued to operate effectively and was given special permission to operate during lockdowns, clearly demonstrating the commitment of the Vietnamese Government to tackle the illegal wildlife trade”.

Click here to learn more about UNODC's Regional Programme for Southeast Asia.

Click here to learn more about UNODC’s Global Programme on Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime in Southeast Asia.