On Wednesday, a Thai interagency task force impound two tigers and charged the owner of a private Chaiyaphum zoo with criminal possession of protected wildlife for the second time in less than a year. It’s the latest wildlife trading hub to be raided by Thailand’s wildlife police and also demonstrates the importance of latest DNA techniques in countering wildlife crime.
DNA proved tigers cubs were not legally owned by zoo.
The two tigers were first found because of the raid to the zoo in July 2011. Two leopards were also impound at that time, as the owner could not provide a permit. At the time, DNA samples were obtained from the tigers to prove the owner’s claim that the cubs are the offspring of tigers rightfully owned by the zoo. The subsequent DNA test executed by DNP’s Wildlife Forensic Science Unit demonstrated that these claims were untrue. The DNP’s recent investment in its DNA analysis qualities made this discovery in the case possible. [pullquote]CSI and forensics not only applies to people, it applies to wildlife as well.[/pullquote]
The Thai Nature Crime Police and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) cooperated on the situation. They took action after DNA analysis demonstrated the cubs were not offspring of adult tigers legally owned by the zoo owner. The owner was detained, and later released on 100,000 Baht (US$ 3,220) bail. If they are found guilty, the zoo owner’s license could be cancelled.
“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.”
“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.”
Zoo suspected to be part of an international wildlife trafficking gang.
The defendant has been the interest of a two-year investigation to track down the source of significant numbers of tigers and other species being trafficked through Thailand on to Laos and Vietnam.
The zoo is considered 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 all over the world and in Thailand in 2011.