Thailand WIFOS unit launched

Thailand have significantly increased their commitment to wildlife forensics, opening a dedicated and specialist new Wildlife Forensics Unit ‘WIFOS’, at the Department of National Parks Headquarters in Bangkok. The laboratory will specialise in using DNA technology to help fight offences against CITES and against national legislation.

The laboratory is headed by Dr Kanita Ouithaven (pictured), who has responsibility as Head of Unit for setting up the new unit, purchasing the new equipment necessary and making sure that the techniques used are of a high scientific quality- good enough for court.  Experts in wildlife forensics from TRACE Wildlife Forensics Network (WFN) have been involved in advising on issues such as lab design and equipment ordering, to maximise efficiency and quality. Four members of staff are currently under the command of Dr Kanita, and this number of staff will be particularly useful when casework needs to be cross-checked by colleagues.

The laboratory staff have already been trained by TRACE WFN experts Drs Ross McEwing and Rob Ogden in a variety of DNA techniques. The lab capacity now includes the ability to develop new tests when  needed in the future, meaning Thailand is less reliant on international support for future investigations. The laboratory is currently aiding investigations in to the illegal wildlife trade, and we will keep you updated on progress whenever legally possible.

The future plans of the laboratory include working with other ASEAN countries laboratories to establish a database of validated DNA sequences from a range of illegally traded animals across the ASEAN region. These validated reference samples and DNA sequences will help in cases where scientists are asking the question ‘What is this animal and where did these animals come from?’ They will provide the evidential basis for robust identification. The need for continued collection of reliable samples that have been analysed using a standard methodology, in a quality controlled environment, is always present. Together with Malaysia’s specialist laboratory at PERHILITAN, the WIFOS laboratory will become a key stakeholder in tackling the illegal wildlife trade by providing high quality and robust results for both intelligence and evidential purposes.