Met Police forensics kit helping to catch Kenyan ivory poachers

Met Police ivory fingerprinting kit
IFAW CEO and President Azzedine Downes with a new ivory fingerprinting kit developed by the London Metropolitan Police at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Photo: IFAW

A forensic ivory fingerprint kit, researched and developed by the forensic teams at the Metropolitan Police and King’s College London is being successfully used in the fight to stop ivory poaching in Kenya and across the African continent.

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has used the new ivory fingerprinting kit to recover evidence from ivory seizures that ordinary fingerprinting kits are not able to detect because of the porousness of elephant tusks.

This groundbreaking new fingerprint testing method uses magnetic particles rather than dust, meaning fingerprints can be found on an elephant’s tusk for around a month after they were touched. The fingerprint test even minimises waste, as it can simply be cleaned using a magnet.

This is a huge improvement, as older methods for fingerprint testing only gave detectives a maximum of four days to test fresh prints, as the porous tusks absorb grease and liquid incredibly quickly. So the innovative new technique, designed by police forensic specialist Mark Moseley, is a high improvement.

So far, in four cases, the kit has helped the authorities to make 15 arrest, five of which were allegedly corrupt police officers.

Met Police ivory fingerprinting kit
KWS senior investigations officers demonstrate the new ivory fingerprinting kit for KWS Director General Kitili Mbathi with IFAW CEO and President Azzedine Downes. Photo: IFAW

The 45-year-old decided to create the kit after his children asked him if he would help rescue the elephants and he worked alongside King’s College London in his free time to produce the tool.

Speaking to The Evening Standard, Mr Moseley, who has been granted an award by the fund for his work to help the elephants, explained that his tool can be used for both fighting crime and saving animals.

This research has not only had a positive impact on criminal investigations, but has enabled people around the world to have an additional forensic tool in trying to help save animals targeted for their ivory.

Philip Mansbridge, the International Fund for Animal Welfare UK’s director, said: “Mark’s dedication to developing this ground-breaking ivory kit is a great example of animal welfare in action.”

A ban on ivory sales in China, the world’s largest importer and user of elephant tusks, took effect on Sunday. In his New Year message, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson described the ban as “fantastic news” and said that 2018 must be the year ivory traders are defeated.