Forensic laboratory assists in combating illegal wildlife trade in Vietnam-a global issue

The limited research laboratory handled nearly 250 criminal cases last year, representing hundreds of individual samples of high-profile cases related to rhino horns, pangolin scales, ivory, big cats, fish, bear parts, sea turtles and lion bones .

Laboratory upgrade

The facility is located in the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources (IEBR) in the capital Hanoi and has undergone major changes.

With funding originally provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and recent funding, it has now become a world-class wildlife forensic laboratory Office of Drugs and Crime.

Giovanni Broussard, the regional coordinator of the United Nations agency’s global plan to combat wildlife and forest crime, recently announced that it will continue to provide funding until September.

“Despite continuing challenges, the Vietnamese laboratory continues to operate effectively and obtain special permits during the lockdown period, which clearly demonstrates the Vietnamese government’s commitment to combat illegal wildlife trade,” he said.

Support law enforcement

Six specialized forensic personnel passed pandemic restrictions, including local travel bans, to ensure effective handling and reporting of criminal cases.

The project was funded by the Office of Drugs and Crime and implemented by the TRACE Wildlife Forensic Network. It directly supported more than 70 criminal cases through a dedicated quality management system.

In July last year, the customs authorities at Da Nang Port seized a shipment from Durban, South Africa. The shipment was declared as wood, but it actually contained more than 3 tons of animal bones, including skulls and 52 horns.

Bone sample

Although the staff cannot go to the crime scene due to the following reasons Coronavirus disease Restricted, they provide a sampling guide so that customs officers can take a bone from each bag, take a sample of each horn, and then send it back to IEBR for analysis.

Kelly Morgan, a regional technical support expert from TRACE Wildlife Forensic Network, said: “It has been two years full of challenges, but the changes witnessed are incredible.”

The laboratory is currently being audited by the American Wildlife Forensic Association to ensure that its work practices meet international standards.