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Forensic Analysis Leads to Bust of Private Zoo

Fri, 04/06/2012 - 8:42am

ShutterstockA Thai interagency taskforce confiscated two tigers and charged the owner of a private Chaiyaphum zoo with illegal possession of protected wildlife for the second time in less then a year.

The Thai Nature Crime Police and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) cooperated on the case. They took action after DNA analysis proved the cubs were not offspring of adult tigers legally owned by the suspect. The owner was arrested, and later released on 100,000 Baht (US$ 3,220) bail. If they are found guilty, the zoo owner’s license could be revoked.

“Today we moved forward another step in taking down a wildlife criminal network by applying science to our investigation,” said Police Lieutenant Colonel Adtapon Sudsai of the Thai Nature Crime Police, “This type of forensic analysis is becoming an important tool in our work.”

The two tigers were first found during the raid to the zoo in July 2011. Two leopards were also confiscated at that time, as the owner could not produce a permit. At the time, DNA samples were collected from the tigers to prove the owner’s claim that the cubs are the offspring of tigers legally owned by the zoo. The subsequent DNA test conducted by DNP’s Wildlife Forensic Science Unit showed that these claims were false. The DNP’s recent investment in its DNA analysis capabilities made this breakthrough in the case possible.

“What traffickers and criminals must understand is that Thailand is very serious about wildlife crime and will continue to use the latest forensic techniques to investigate and apprehend these organized criminals,” said Doug Goessman, Law Enforcement Advisor for FREELAND Foundation, “CSI and forensics not only applies to people, it applies to wildlife as well.”

The suspect has been the focus of a two-year investigation to find the source of significant numbers of tigers and other species being trafficked through Thailand on to Laos and Vietnam.

The zoo is believed by authorities to have been registered as a cover for illegal international wildlife trafficking operations. It was also the focus of a National Geographic Channel series, "Crimes Against Nature", which aired globally and in Thailand in 2011.

Source: Freeland Foundation

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