Published: 16th October 2017
Wildlife labs to soon debut in Tamil Nadu and aims to increase conviction rates of those guilty
The lab will help identify, examine and compare evidence using several scientific procedures and instruments that can help link the victim to the scene of the crime
The State forest department is planning to set-up a full-fledged dedicated forensic laboratory for wildlife, which will help crack wildlife crimes and increase the rate of conviction. Currently, Tamil Nadu has an abysmal three per cent conviction rate of all cases registered under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Speaking to Express on the sidelines of the inauguration of the Advanced Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC) on Thursday by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, Shekhar Kumar Niraj, Chief Conservator of Forests (Protection and Vigilance - Northern Group), Chennai, said that in any criminal investigation forensics holds the key and the same is applicable to wildlife crimes.
He proposed that the laboratory will come up in AIWC building at Vandalur here, where basic infrastructure is ready. "If we have Rs one crore, we can meet the basic needs. To have a full-fledged laboratory in place it would cost around Rs 10 crore," he said and added that efforts are on to raise funds from different resources.
Niraj said once the lab is established it would help examine, identify and compare evidence using a wide range of scientific procedures and instruments, in the attempt to link suspect, the victim (animal) and crime scene with physical evidence."
So far, the forest department sends samples to either the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, or the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad. "CCMB charges about `2.5 lakh for examining one sample, which is not feasible. Also, it consumes a lot of time to get the results and eventually affects prosecution. Our ground staff nab wildlife offenders risking their life at times, but, in most cases, the accused walk free due to lack of evidence. With forensic experts in the mix, it will help achieve higher wildlife crime conviction rates," Niraj said.
Besides assisting investigators, forensics has also got other research applications in wildlife conservation like DNA profiling of the species. "The population density of the animals, sex ratio and geographical spread of a particular species and other crucial information needed for decision-making can be obtained using forensic science," he said.