The Wildlife Crime Academy

At the end of June 2021, the Spanish Government, the Junta de Andalucía and the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) held the first-ever Wildlife Crime Academy (WCA) in Spain. This event was took place within the scope of the BalkanDetox LIFE project which MAVA supports within the frame of the action plan on reducing the mortality of birds in the Mediterranean Basin.

This event marked a milestone — not only did it take place during a global pandemic, but it was also the first training of its kind to achieve real engagement and to provide the necessary skills to relevant stakeholders to effectively fight wildlife crime in different European regions. A total of 34 professionals working in conservation, law enforcement and forensic science traveled from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, the Republic of North Macedonia, Serbia and Spain to learn how to investigate wildlife crime, from Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) and forensic analysis to the final procedure before the courts.

(c) VCF

We did our best to organise this event, investing everything we have,” says Jovan Andevski from the VCF. He continues, “The Junta de Andalucía generously shared their best practice experience. The only thing we asked in return from the participants is to proudly wear their WCA membership card and to commit to implement this knowledge in their country.”

Participants will reunite once again during the Advanced Course foreseen in autumn 2021 to enhance their specialization in their respective areas of expertise. The goal of the WCA is to provide the opportunity to as many people as possible across Europe, and eventually worldwide, to receive the necessary training to combat wildlife crime.

Poisoning, poaching, trapping, collision, electrocution and illegal trade — all examples of severe wildlife crimes — are overlooked and under-prosecuted. Why is that? Firstly, victims of these crimes don’t have a voice, making them powerless unless people care for them. Secondly, when it comes to solving these crimes, investigators can face several setbacks such as remote crime scenes with degrading evidence, unreliable or no witnesses, nonexistent protocols and lack of specific training. It is urgent to prioritize and act against these crimes by conducting proper investigations to avoid that similar cases occur again. This is where the Wildlife Crime Academy (WCA) comes in: it fills the knowledge and capacity gaps and aims to change attitudes towards wildlife crime.

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