Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cargo for Conservation

Many years ago, I drove down to Ashland, Oregon, home to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Forensic Laboratory.   It is the only lab in the world dedicated to crimes against wildlife.  As in police labs, forensic scientists examine, identify, and compare evidence using a variety of scientific procedures and instruments, in the attempt to link suspect, victim, and crime scene with physical evidence.
At the time, the lab also had a large warehouse containing row upon row of shelves containing a wide range of confiscated items.  Included were items made from ivory, coral, reptiles, furs, and bird feathers, to name a few.  The warehouse has since moved to Denver.   Most of the items ending up in the warehouse are usually seized at U.S. airports from people returning from travels abroad.  Some of these people are unaware that they are transporting illegal items back into the states and others are simply smugglers.    
The main purpose of my trip to Ashland was to gather an assortment of these items from the warehouse.  These items are now used in a conservation awareness program called “Cargo for Conservation”, a kit which shows and encourages species protection.   Educators studying endangered species can focus on the illegal wildlife trade as one reason many species are in trouble.
Items used for conservation awareness
I’ve used this kit on numerous occasions, at public events, in the classroom, or with groups of girl and boy scouts.  Highlighting the stories of the animals affected by illegal trade and allowing the students to actually see and hold those items made from the animals makes a dramatic impact.  This kit is available to all educators.  Please contact our office to reserve it.  
Submitted by Donna Allard

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