The rhinoceros has been hunted to near extinction as part of an illegal trade in endangered animals that has become the fourth largest criminal industry in the world. Now it has a champion. We see how a CSI team in the United States is using its forensic skills to target the hunters.
This illegal industry is worth $19bn, while only 30,000 rhinos remain in the wild today.
We visit the US Fish & Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, the world's only crime lab devoted to wildlife. It investigates cases for the US as well as 180 other countries belonging to CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
Ken Goddard, its director and founder, spent 30 years investigating human crimes before turning his expertise to helping endangered species.
"Police work is repetitive... here we're making a difference. We can save species," he tells us.
Usually the first question the lab asks when it receives a horn, carcass, or some other animal object is: what is it?
Rhino horns are made from keratin, what fingernails are made of, but on the black market they can fetch, ounce for ounce, more than gold or platinum. Figuring out the species - and whether it is endangered - can help determine the severity of the crime. The lab processes each case, determines the cause of death, and then helps wildlife officers figure out if a law was broken and, if so, how badly.
In this episode, we also head to Las Vegas to check out one high school’s science squad, which is excelling at making all kinds of robots.
Source: Al Jazeera