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DNA to help trace suspects in bird of prey killings

New research proves forensic evidence can be found at the scene days after an incident.

Crime: Birds of prey are being killed illegally (file pic).
Crime: Birds of prey are being killed illegally (file pic).

New research has been carried out into retrieving human DNA at the scene of wildlife crimes, including the persecution of birds of prey.

The study has discovered that DNA can be found at the scene days after an incident has taken place.

Evidence can be found on traps which have been left outside for ten days, and can also be gathered from rabbit baits and bird carcasses.

It is hoped the new techniques will give investigators a crucial tool in tracking down those who have illegally killed birds of prey and other protected species.

The research was commissioned by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland and carried out by the Scottish Police Authority's (SPA) Forensic Services, the Scottish Government and the University of Strathclyde.

It comes after concerns were raised over the disappearance of a tagged sea eagle in "highly suspicious circumstances" in Perthshire.

https://stv.tv/news/north/1412838-search-after-eagle-s-highly-suspicious-disappearance/ | default

The RSPB says satellite-tagged eagles are regularly disappearing.

Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham, who is also chair of PAW Scotland, said: "Poisoning, trapping and shooting are all methods used to illegally target birds of prey, however investigations can often be hampered by a lack of evidence.

"This new research will unlock the potential of using DNA profiles to track criminals and could play a crucial role in helping secure convictions for wildlife crime.

"We continue to prioritise wildlife crime and are working to develop new ways to protect our precious birds of prey, including through a new wildlife crime detective post at Police Scotland HQ and a new team of special constables to tackle rural crime in the Cairngorms National Park."

https://stv.tv/news/west-central/1411837-bird-killer-sought-after-red-kite-poisoned/ | default

Steven Ferguson, lead forensic scientist at SPA Forensic Services, said: "This exciting research in support of tackling wildlife crime demonstrates that DNA profiles can be obtained from items exposed to the elements in Scotland's sometimes harsh climate.

"In recent years, over £6 million has been invested in new forensic capability in Scotland including DNA24, robotics and powerful software to successfully obtain DNA profiles in support of the Scottish justice system.

"The research undertaken by PAW has demonstrated that these same techniques, used in crimes ranging from housebreaking to murder, can also be used to identify those involved in persecuting birds of prey."

Detective chief superintendent David McLaren said: "The illegal use of traps are often used in remote places.

"This makes the collection of evidence extremely challenging.

"Police Scotland always welcomes advancement in scientific techniques to solve wildlife crime and has always used all the available tools in our pursuit of those who commit wildlife crime.

"This new technique will advance our ability to collect Human DNA from illegally set traps."

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