With the development in technology, the scientists have now resorted to using various forensic materials for tracking down the tree poachers. The researchers have now turned to implement the use of new technology for tracking down timber thieves.
THE REASON FOR THE NEED
The tree poachers, also known as midnight burlers, have been defined as the ones who smuggle the trees illegally for monetary purposes. They don’t seem to care about the biological importance of the tree but only want to extract money from it.
The redwoods found in Northern California are protected by the Government for their historical value. The tree poachers only care about their prize which is a heavy chunk of rust-red wood which would earn a lot of money for them in the illegal markets. The chunks from these ancient woods are very valuable.
The burls are filled with smooth flesh and are found at the base or the spine of a tree. They grow like a knotted tumour which is why they can be ideally used for making picture frames, tables, mantels, souvenirs etc. Tree poachers understand the value of such a burl and know that it can earn thousands of dollars.
More than 18 cases were registered in California’s Redwood National and State Park groves around three years ago. Despite the security and the “protected” status, the tree poachers have been relentless in stealing the burls. The acres of land fall gigantic when compared to the amount of law enforcement rangers appointed.
So far, the research has been conducted from conservation biology point of view. But Stephen Pires, in his study, aims to use the new techniques for identifying the theft patterns and match than with the criminal behaviour so that one can use criminology for wildlife crime prevention.
Thieves can only transport the burls on the truck or cut them into pieces for carrying. They sell the burl without paperwork. If the evidence is found at the base of the tree, there is no way of matching it to the stolen piece of timber since the burl shops process it immediately.
Studying the chainsaw marks is one of the forensic techniques that can catch the poachers however that also required finding the matching chainsaw. The forest forensics are now using dendrology (studying the scientific taxonomy of a tree) for matching the intercepted wood with the one left at the crime scene.
The science has advanced to a point where DNA science is making it easier to catch the culprits. The seized wood fibres can be studied under the microscope for creating the genetic footprint much needed for finding the original harvest point. Combining the two fields – wildlife crime investigation and crime scene investigation- is difficult.
Some scientists suggest finding and marking the most important trees with a tracker to catch the poacher. The burl shops need to have the copy of the identification of the sellers to prevent the poaching.
The implementation of such forensic techniques is still a little ahead in future but the need brims with new possibilities.