Wildlife Forensics from Space

 Wildlife Forensics from Space

Today Groundstation.Space is present at the grand opening of the new Wildlife Forensic Academy in Buffelsfontein, South Africa. The Wildlife Forensic Academy is a state-of-the-art forensic training platform to protect and preserve wildlife around the globe. The Academy is nature’s game changer and a preeminent voice in the mobilisation of wildlife forensic knowledge. It aims to give African wildlife its voice, by joining forces and sharing knowledge.


The Academy stands for ‘Ubuntu’, a South African philosophy, meaning ‘We are one’. The academy believes in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity and beyond. It seeks to connect people, the planet, wildlife, business, research, education and corporate social responsibility.

We live in a technology-based society and face fast-moving developments that threatens wildlife. It is only possible to effectively tackle this issue when you simultaneously focus on innovation, education and cooperation. It’s all about cohesion, which is what Wildlife Forensic Academy lives up to.

Tracking Wildlife Crime

Wildlife crime has exploded on a scale never seen before and is pushing many animals towards extinction. In addition to loss of biodiversity, which causes serious damage to ecosystems that support our existence, wildlife crime has a negative impact on local economies. We as a generation need to understand the global threat that wildlife crime is posing for the future; crime scene assessment and education are key tools in this fight.

Wildlife crime scene (photo: WFA)

Forensic Science

The legalization of society is increasingly becoming a site of contestation as conflicting interests continue to develop. Disputes are increasingly being explored through judicial intervention, in trying to determine the boundary between human rights – which vary from nation to nation – and the stance on animal rights, environmental rights or wildlife trade.

These disputes have an impact on local communities and the environment. Environmental exploitation, abuse and pollution – which is linked to climate change and human-inflicted damage – is also becoming a hot topic among younger generations, as awareness increases.

This awareness is driving a more formalized and standard approach by which stakeholders, governments and citizens may recognize and report crimes to the authorities. Improved training methodologies are helping to understand crime scenes, increase prosecution levels and use technology to develop databases and act proactively using forensic evidence!

In many cases, the specifics of a crime are not understood. The crime scene is entered and disrupted, with evidence being inadvertently altered due to the lack of forensic exploration. This leads to poor evidence and, in many cases, criminals and syndicates escape prosecution which invariably increasing the levels of crime.

It must be understood that in most cases poaching is linked to organised crime. Using forensic evidence to bolster a criminal case can help combat poaching, due to increased prosecution levels, subsequent financial chain disruptions and thus reduced repetitive crimes.

Wildlife Forensics

The killing, poaching or abuse of animals happens in many cases in remote areas or in hidden places. Due to this there are never witness statements! We only can only solve these case with forensic evidence. That’s why we have to mobilize forensic knowledge and techniques.

Data Driven Nature Conservation

Effective anti-poaching operations rely heavily on ranger patrols. Nature conservation areas, however, are very big and boots on the ground comparatively scarce. The question is, how can we help the rangers to outwit the poachers?

One of the answers is to make better use of data. Even in the remotest of remote nature conservation areas, gigabytes of data are being generated by rangers, animal trackers, wildlife cameras, aerial surveys, and satellites. This happens at ever increasing volumes, varieties and velocities. 

Collecting forensic data on the ground and in space (photo: WFA)

Using Satellites for Wildlife Conservation

High-resolution remote sensing images have provided conservationists and ecologists with the ability to accurately monitor illegal mining, to monitor wildlife populations, to rapidly detect deforestation activities and other alterations being made to the landscape.

Earth imagery provided by satellites is collected frequently, globally, and at an increasingly higher quality. Such information is also becoming more user-friendly, and the frequency of images has enabled these applications in relation to wildlife conservation.

Geographic information systems, combined with global positioning systems and satellite remote sensing, have generated an array of opportunities for data collection, analysis, integration, modelling and satellite map production for wildlife assessment and monitoring.

Assisting in management and conservation activities, satellite imagery of a high resolution provides researchers and scientists with progressively up-to-date geospatial data. Reliable statistics can be obtained using network processing for habitat mapping, to monitor wildlife migrations and track endangered species in the most isolated parts of the world.

The data obtained using collars and tags placed on wildlife can be relayed to researchers and scientists via communications satellites. Such technology enables researchers to track the wildlife in more remote areas, identifying and monitoring wildlife movement, species numbers, patterns, and behaviours, which can be utilised to prevent poaching.

Traditional methods for collecting data concerning wildlife populations using satellite technology include tag methods and aerial visualisation. However, these methods have not proven the most efficient, particularly in relations to tracking large animals in remote locations.

Tracking wildlife from satellites (image: Skyrora)

Read More about Satellites for Wildlife Conservation

Skyrora: Using Satellite Technology for Wildlife Conservation

Skyrora: Wildlife Conservation and Satellite Technology – An Overview

Read More about the Wildlife Forensics Academy

WFA: Wildlife Forensics Academy Homepage

WFA: Wildlife Forensics Academy Courses for Conservationists and Rangers

Groundstation.Space: WFA Grand Opening Event on 13 May 2022

Remco Timmermans

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