SOLVE magazine Issue 03 2021 | Page 20


Crime fighters go wild

As populations of the pangolin – a small , scaly mammal – teeter on the brink of rapid decline , criminology researchers at the University of Portsmouth have joined the fight to save them using a technology adapted from human crime fighting . To disrupt poachers and animal traffickers , researchers are adapting fingerprinting techniques to lift prints from vulnerable creatures , such as pangolins , and bring offenders to justice .
The process is cheap , easy to use , very deployable , and you can use a mobile phone camera to capture the mark in the right conditions .
– Dr Paul Smith
Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world , and their numbers are reaching critically low levels .

L ifting fingerprints is one of the mainstays of crime scene investigations and this proven crime-solving technique may be key to the survival of a popular – for all the wrong reasons – mammal , the pangolin . Researchers and students at the University of Portsmouth have developed a modified process for lifting fingerprints from the scales of rescued or killed pangolins , greatly increasing the chances of wildlife authorities arresting and convicting perpetrators .

Pangolins are the only known mammals to be covered in scales , and are often called ‘ the scaly anteater ’ because of their appearance and diet . When they feel threatened , pangolins curl into a ball and use their scales for protection . However , while they may appear to have a tough armour , they are vulnerable to human predation . Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world , poached and illegally traded for their meat and scales . The African Wildlife Foundation estimates 2.7 million pangolins are poached every year . Their meat is considered a delicacy and their scales are ground and used in
ISSUE 03 / 2021