The international trade in endangered species involves many different types of wild fauna killed for their horns or skins or ivory.
One of the tools of the poaching trade is the firearm. The firearm and fired ammunition components such as bullets and cartridge cases found at crime scenes can often be the common denominator which can link multiple crimes together and link a suspected poacher’s gun to a crime or series of crimes.
The INTERPOL Ballistics Information Network (IBIN) can help police develop and share actionable intelligence across borders in an efficient and effective manner to address transnational crime like the international trade in endangered species.
IBIN was created in 2009 as a platform for the large-scale international sharing and comparing of ballistic data. Just as fingerprint data can link crimes and criminals across international borders, IBIN can identify matches between pairs of spent bullets and cartridge cases within minutes, thereby helping forensic experts give police investigators timely information about crimes, guns, and suspects.
INTERPOL’S IBIN Program leverages the power of automated ballistics technology to provide the global law enforcement community with a “world-wide ballistics data sharing network”. With such a network in place, internationally mobile criminals who use firearms to further their illicit activities will find escaping detection increasingly challenging.
For more information about IBIN and INTERPOL’s firearm related programs go to: http://www.interpol.int/Crime-areas/Firearms/Firearms
The article below provides a quick peek into the Rhino poaching problem in South Africa. It highlights the escalating severity and transnational scope of the problem and provides insight into the highly organized criminal operations.
Rhino poaching hit an all-time high in 2010
Scientific American, By John R. Platt, January 13, 2011
Rhinoceros poaching in South Africa hit an all-time high in 2010, with 333 animals slain for their valuable horns. That’s nearly triple the 122 rhinos killed in the country in 2009.
Most of the poached rhinos were southern white rhinoceri (Ceratotherium simum simum). The most prolific type of rhino, it is considered a near-threatened species. But 10 critically endangered black rhinos (Diceros bicornis) were also among the dead.
The killing hasn’t abated with the New Year. As of January 11 five more rhinos had already been killed.
Most of the deaths in the past year were in Kruger National Park, which lost 146 rhinos due to poaching.
Stopping poaching has become increasingly difficult as the money fetched by rhino horns on the black market makes it possible for gangs to use high-tech methods to commit their crimes. Poachers often use helicopters to fly into national parks under the cover of darkness. They carry night-vision goggles and high-powered rifles to track and take down their prey, then land, hack off the rhinos’ horns, and fly out again before park rangers can apprehend them. According to TRAFFIC International, the wildlife trade monitoring group, a single rhino horn can fetch $70,000 or more for its use in traditional Asian medicine.
"The criminal syndicates operating in South Africa are highly organized and use advanced technologies. They are very well coordinated," Joseph Okori, African rhino program manager for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said in a prepared statement. "This is not typical poaching."
South Africa’s park rangers aren’t completely helpless. So far this year authorities have shot and killed five suspected poachers and arrested seven more, according to a report from Reuters.
"More successful convictions, backed up by appropriately daunting penalties will significantly demonstrate the South African government’s commitment to preventing the clouding of the country’s excellent rhino conservation track record that it has built up over the past several decades," said Morné duPlessis, CEO of WWF South Africa.
But South Africa can’t do this job alone. Poachers often enter the country and its Kruger National Park through bordering nations—Zimbabwe and Mozambique—where enforcement is lax. A South African nongovernmental organizaton, the Coalition for the Survival of Endangered Species, hopes to organize a multinational conference to discuss rhino conservation this June.
 John R. Platt, “Rhino poaching hit an all-time high in 2010”, Scientific American, January 13, 2011.