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SOS Rhino : In the News : Illegal trading: Follow that badger!

Illegal trading: Follow that badger!

  There's a new weapon in the fight against poachers, nest raiders and ivory traders. Josh Sims meets the policemen hot on the trail of Britain's beastliest criminals.
Published: 02 November 2006
The Independent

Henery is the UK's longest-standing wildlife crime officer - there are only six full-time police officers with this specialist role nationwide - and 2006's WWF Wildlife Law Enforcer of the Year. His work has encompassed everything from badger-baiting to the illegal trade in elephant ivory. But his job is, in theory, about to get much easier. Last month saw the launch of the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), a pilot organisation established in 2002 and now, following a commitment of £200,000 by Defra earlier this year, put on a permanent, active footing.

The unit has already had success: it provided intelligence to Netherlands authorities that led to the arrest of 20 people for the illegal importation of birds into the EU; and to US agencies for the seizure of tiger parts and snow leopard skins. "But previously it was a unit that was very covert in its operations," says Kerr. "Now we're dealing with wildlife crime in the same way as with drugs, firearms or other serious crime. Wildlife crime is a green issue and I think it is of real interest to the public. We have a responsibility to do something about it."

The recent successes of Henery and his fellow wildlife officers have been the product of extensive fieldwork combined with standard police scientific methods . "Much of the work is being out in the field talking to people, relying on tip-offs from the public," says Henery. "But we use the same techniques and technology to investigate wildlife crime as we might a murder."


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